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Book Review: Why Some Companies Emerge Stronger and Better from a Crisis

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The name Ian I. Mitroff might not ring bells, but anyone who is well-versed on the topic knows why he’s been called “the father of modern crisis management.” Mitroff is a professor at the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Southern California. He’s the author of numerous papers and books on crisis management, business policy and other areas of business

Crises aren’t limited to computer breaches, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Unfortunately, more crises have occurred in the past few years than in the 20 years before that. Too many organizations react to crisis, instead of making crisis management a part of its organization, like human resources and finance.

The unusual way of doing business in the past has become the normal way of doing business today. Crisis doesn’t have boundaries, so it can affect a company across the board rather than in silos.

Mitroff works to change attitudes and philosophy required to ensure a company correctly implements crisis management, rather than addressing the basics of crisis management. The basics won’t matter if companies have the wrong attitude.

According to Mitroff, organizations that adopt the seven challenges improve their chances of riding out any crisis that occurs. Organizations also include public, government, and non-profits. Before 9/11, people thought the idea of a “flying bomb” was unbelievable. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and it taught organizations a valuable lesson: be prepared for anything, even far-fetched scenarios.

You’d think 9/11 would encourage organizations to take a proactive stance on crisis management, but just two years after 9/11, companies returned to their old ways and prepared to handle only few crises: natural disasters and fire. Crises have changed as they’re not just “normal systems accidents,” which are accidental breakdowns as a result of very complicated technology.

Seven competencies help an organization survive a crisis and maybe come out of it better than before the crisis. They are:

  • Right Heart: Emotional IQ – Learn how to get a better handle on emotions and how to deal with defense mechanisms that expectedly appear when crises occur.
  • Right Thinking: Creative IQ – Bigger picture thinking that requires thinking outside of outside the box.
  • Right Social and Political Skills: Social and Political IQ – Organizations look at themselves as one big entity instead of departments and that they’re only in one business. All businesses are in all businesses. For example, a university is also in the food business (cafeteria) and facilities business (dorms).
  • Right Integration: Integrative IQ – Crisis management can’t be reduced to tools and techniques. Instead it’s based on assumptions as there endless solutions.
  • Right Technical Skills: Technical IQ – Must “think like a controlled paranoid,” which means exploring every scenario without tossing it out as preposterous.
  • Right Transfer: Aesthetic IQ – Include crisis management as part of an organization rather than as its own department or put in a silo.
  • Right Soul: Spiritual IQ — Accept that the spiritual, physical, and mental areas exist together not separately. It lets organizations deal with problems that result from unnaturally splitting up these areas.

The book influences the reader to look at crisis management differently and to convince the organization of the importance of getting on board. Mitroff shares chilling stories about crises and how companies handled them, which clearly illustrate the points the reader needs to understand about crisis management.

At times, Mitroff’s writing sounds like a college textbook and loses the reader. However, considering the complex topic, Mitroff does a fine job as many parts of the book absorb the reader. The book targets executives and managers who buy-in to the philosophy and can make a difference in their companies.

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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.