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Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Steven Fink

The author, who served on the Three Mile Island crisis management team, has done an extensive study of crises in business. In this book he describes and analyzes several recent crises including TMI, Ohio S & L, Union Carbide, and Rely Tampons. He advises … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Steven Fink
Publisher: Backinprint.com
1 review about Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable

After Almost 15 Years, Still Relevant and Invaluable

  • Jan 23, 2002
I read this book when it was first published more than 15 years ago and decided to re-read it recently as various corporate crises occur or continue. (Who knows what the latest Enron and Arthur Andersen developments will be by the time this review appears?) What sets this book apart from almost all others which discuss the same general subject is the fact that Fink's observations, insights, and recommendations are (if anything) more relevant in 2001 than ever before. How can this be true? My answer is that he correctly emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive and cohesive process which consists of four separate but related components: anticipation and preparation, rapid response, follow-through, and post-event evaluation. For obvious reasons, each is critically important but post-event evaluation has even greater importance (and value) if it guides and informs subsequent anticipation and preparation. In an ideal world, seamless anticipation and preparation will eliminate all crises. In reality, "the best laid plans" can almost instantaneously become irrelevant, if not counter-productive. Presumably, major airlines such as American and United as well as the City of New York (not to mention federal agencies) involved some exceptionally talented people to formulate a number of "What if?" scenaria. And then the events of September 11th occurred. The efforts to formulate such scenaria were not invalidated by those events; nonetheless, as in Hawaii almost 60 years ago, the challenge was for various corporate and governmental entities to respond immediately and effectively, as indeed they did. In time, as with the events which occurred on December 7th, the events which occurred last September will be evaluated even as preventive measures are taken and new scenaria are formulated, as indeed they should be.

Fink organizes his excellent material within 18 chapters which are arranged in a sequence appropriate to the aforementioned components. With meticulous care, he defines various terms (thus providing a nomenclature for crisis management which most readers probably did not have before) while establishing a context within which to illustrate and apply those terms. Of greater value, I think, is the matrix of different perspectives which Fink provides. This strategy reminds me of the way Henry James develops his major characters in various novels. That is, look at a given situation from every possible angle. This Fink does brilliantly as he explains how to measure the nature and extent of a given crisis, decide who must do what immediately, how to manage information (he devotes Chapters 13 and 14 to crisis communications), and how to make the most effective decisions under what are inevitably severe pressures ranging from shock and fear to grief and anger within compressed timeframes. He also includes what he calls "A Catastrophic Quartet" in Chapter 17: case studies of crises involving Ohio Savings and Loan, Union Carbide, Procter & Gamble (Rely Tampon), and Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol). Having reached this point in the book, Fink's reader is already well-prepared to recognize various dos and don'ts within the four case studies.

Who will derive the greatest value from this book? My response is decision-makers in organizations (regardless of size or nature) who realize or at least suspect the importance of having a crisis management program already in place, especially now. Noteworthy is the fact that the same observations, insights, and recommendations which Fink shares in this book are as relevant to "catastrophes" involving loss of intellectual property as they are to situations in which there is loss of human life and/or destruction of physical property. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Ian Mitroff's Managing Crises Before They Occur and The Essential Guide to Managing Corporate Crises (in that order) as well as Peter Schwartz's The Art of the Long View. The subtitle of this book stresses the importance of "planning for the inevitable." I could not agree more.

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