Building Your Crisis Management Culture

If the recent string of cruise ship problems has you changing your vacation plans, you’re not alone.  In the past month, four Carnival cruise ships have experienced trouble at sea ranging from power outages to steering problems.  The long-term impact to Carnival’s business depends largely on their response to this crisis.

It’s situations like this that have business leaders wondering how their company would respond in a crisis.  Perhaps you don’t have responsibility for such visible crises but what about the “everyday” crises you experience in your teams and departments?  It’s important to recognize that managing people and processes in a crisis is the same as managing them under normal circumstances.  However, what’s distinctive in a crisis situation is the urgency, focus and potential negative consequences that highlight the inadequacies that were already present.  The way to address the problem in crisis is to first establish solid problem solving practices and a common language for non-crisis situations – and this may require changing the culture of your organization.

In working with many large organizations over the years we have found that the following are distinctive traits in those organizations that are successful in changing their problem solving culture.  These unique traits are relevant for any culture shift:

  • Understand why the shift is vital and communicate:  The Company identified and clearly articulated the reason for the culture shift.  They identified what would happen if no shift occurred.  They identified the expected result and benefit when the shift did occur.  And, of course, they clearly addressed the “what’s-in-it-for-me” for each audience.
  • Overall Management commitment:  Key organizational management understands and articulates the reason for the shift.  Management is “on-board” with the need for the change and the process that was used to achieve the shift.
  • Key stakeholders and drivers:  Often there is a person or small group that is passionate about the need for the culture shift and they have the ability to adjust priorities (including financial) to bring about the needed changes.
  • Consistent message and support:  Messages are clearly communicated and communicated frequently.  The messages are also supported in the actions of management.  Expectations for change are consistently coached and encouraged.  They understand that the current culture took a long time to develop and it will take time to change the culture.
  • Common language and processes:  Through training and other communication, a common language and set of processes for addressing problems was established.  The common language was reinforced through statements, personal actions and coaching of individuals at every opportunity.
  • Effective interdepartmental communication:  Departments interact well with one another and use the common language and processes that have been established.
  • Celebrate the “wins”:  Organizations find it helpful to point to examples of success that give people a visible example of achievement and benefit.  They make a “big deal” about the success so that others are encouraged and motivated to accomplish the same.

In short, crisis management is all about culture management.   Shifting the culture of your organization to one that is resilient in a crisis requires focused attention and effort.  In over thirty years of working with our clients, we’ve seen such a shift is indeed possible. If you would like to do your own free problem solving culture assessment, just give us a call (800) 386-5611 or send an email to and we’ll get one out to you.






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Creative Problem Solving | Problem Solving Training | Decision Making | Teaching Critical Thinking Skills | Critical Thinking