The important roles war rooms play before and during a corporate crisis

News that England’s National Health Service has said it will set up war rooms to help prepare for and respond to the impact of next winter underscores the important role command centers can play in crisis management.

“These centers will need to manage demand and capacity across the country by constantly monitoring beds and attendance,” The Keeper reported. “They will be run by doctors and experts who can make quick decisions about emerging challenges in the health service, NHS England said.”

In the corporate world, war rooms can play equally important roles in helping business leaders prepare for, manage, and recover from a crisis.

Prepare for worst-case scenarios

“Companies are using war rooms to prepare for worst-case scenarios, improve collaboration during events, and help first responders adapt and communicate more effectively during crises,” said Carla Bevins, assistant professor of corporate communications at Tepper Carnegie Mellon University School of Business. Via e-mail.

Avoid communication problems

A war room “is a centralized center where information from numerous sources is processed, and open communication creates a clear, responsive voice,” Bevins advised.

They “are useful when more people are needed to resolve an incident and when cross-functional involvement is needed. If teams work independently on the same issue, this can lead to miscommunication and can prolong the issue. War rooms allow all teams to work together on a resolution by communicating openly and adapting quickly. Warfare rooms ensure there is no delay in communicating new and essential information,” she noted.

“An effective crisis communication effort requires coordinated internal collaboration and parallel processing,” and he noted that “war rooms create a dynamic environment in which these conversations can happen.”

“Make sure your war room is well equipped with all the tools you’ll need before you need them,” concluded Bevins.

Help build crisis management capacity

A war room is very important before a crisis erupts “because it’s in the war room where you rehearse and prepare and build crisis management skills,” Andy Whitehouse, an assistant professor at Columbia University, said in an email. who teaches crisis communications.

“In my class, I argue that companies should regularly bring the crisis team together in the war room to interpret a crisis, as this is the only way to ensure that the team has the experience, skills and comfort to handle a crisis when it happens. A live crisis in a war room is not the time to find out an executive isn’t ready for game time,” he advised.

“Who should be in the war room? It depends on the scenario. Communications, legal, human resources, and operations will almost always be there, but other leaders, like the chief technology officer or chief of security, may be there for a specific crisis,” Whitehouse recommended.

“Use War Rooms Wisely”

“Use war rooms judiciously. If you continue to use a war room when it’s not needed, its effectiveness can decrease. Crises are inherently stressful events where teams work long hours over many days. As the leader of a war room, lead by example by staying calm and collected,” Bevins advised.

“When you act as a role model, you help create a psychologically safe space where team members see that they have an open line of communication. This can encourage them to talk when they get stressed or need support,” she noted.

Size doesn’t matter

“I trained in IT using war rooms starting in the 1990s for outages at large financial services companies,” Karolyn Hart, founder and president of InspireHub, recalled in an email. “I think what would surprise people is that they are not only effective for large companies, but also for small tech companies. Perhaps, especially so.

“Our team has been remote for more than 9 years and we have a virtual war room… Even today, with everyone [the] automatic alerts and technology now available, nothing replaces everyone coming together,” he noted.

“No Chicekn Little Moments”

“Our war room is only called when a certain… criterion we have established is not met. Everyone in the company understands what it is and the steps required to call a war room. There are no “little hen” moments because when it happens, we know for a fact that it’s serious. The alerts go off and the team comes together,” Hart said.

“We gather in our war room and the team knows their roles. (Who’s troubleshooting, who’s liaising with customers (if interested), who’s testing, etc.).

“When I arrive [at the war room], my job is to keep the team calm. Science has shown that software developers’ ability to solve problems decreases with anxiety and stress. I ask questions along with everyone else as we troubleshoot, but I feel like my biggest contribution is to keep them calm,” she commented.

“Not Just for Firefighters”

War rooms can also be useful when there isn’t an immediate crisis, such as preparing for the threat of an economic challenge such as inflation and a recession, according to Ram Charan, a former Harvard economics professor and co-author of First Through Inflationreads a note.

“An ideal war room isn’t just for firefighting; it is also strategic. Early warning signs will tell you not only where problems are cropping up, but also their pace. They allow you to be predictive, prescriptive and preventive.

“If the CEO does not take the initiative to create a war room, the board should propose it. Maybe make an offsite with the best team. Conversely, the CEO may want to call an extraordinary board meeting solely to discuss how inflation and the recession will affect the company.

“If you don’t have a war room, stay behind,” Charnan warned.

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