It’s not hard to think up a list of issues and problems which might potentially turn into crises. Such a list might even look impressive. But it’s useless if it isn’t linked to action. And it can only be linked to action if it’s prioritised for what you should be working on.
To do this you need n effective prioritisation process to fully assess the importance of each issue relative to others. Out of this come the priorities for issue management effort – to make sure you’re most efficiently investing resources to work towards planned, positive outcomes.
There are many different models and processes for prioritisation, some based on numerical analysis and some based on formal consensus. There are even online models which claim to be useful.
But regardless of the process itself, it’s essential to understand and communicate why prioritisation is important and why it demands top management involvement.
There are ten specific benefits which issue prioritisation brings to Crisis Proofing:
- Commitment — Involves key players, ensures their buy-in and reduces backsliding and dissent.
- Objectivity — Demonstrates to the board, investors and stakeholders that a transparent process was followed which didn’t rely on group-think or ‘gut feel’.
- Confidence — Provides assurance that the organisation is not only doing things right but is doing the right things.
- Rigour — Helps to resist pressure from individuals, sometimes very senior, who demand resources for their ‘pet issue’.
- Speed — Can be achieved quickly without having to reinvent the process.
- Efficiency — Optimises use of resources and minimises duplication and wasted effort.
- Neutrality — Reduces the risk of distortion by turf rivalries or dominant personalities.
- Simplicity — Can be implemented by senior executives with minimal facilitation once the format is embedded.
- Flexibility — Assessment criteria can be easily adapted to fit the needs of different types of organisations, or different parts of the organisation, or different markets.
- Repeatability — Provides a consistent basis for future updates to objectively assess whether priorities or conditions have changed.
Most importantly, issue prioritisation is not an abstract or theoretical process, or just a box-ticking exercise. It can lead to significant decisions on investment and resource allocation. It can also have real impacts including reputation; capacity to do business; investor confidence; expansion and acquisition plans; recruitment and retention; compliance cost; risk exposure and crisis prevention. These consequences should be the direct responsibility of the top executive group. That’s why prioritisation needs a strategic team approach, with senior management directly involved.
And for any doubter who wonders whether formal prioritisation is worth the time and effort, consider Derek Bok, President of Harvard, who once said: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” To paraphrase Bok: “If you think a planned response to issues is expensive, try enduring a crisis.”
Compared with the time, expense, business disruption and reputational damage from a crisis, identifying, prioritising and proactively managing issues is a great investment.