The Notion Of Crisis Management

The impression of crisis direction is to a big degree self-explanatory. It is the managing and bar of crises. Nevertheless, companies around the universe have for excessively long neglected the importance of this direction tool. It is true that directors have lacked operational decision-making instruments in times of crisis. But this should non do them disregard the issue because it is exactly these cases that are the most hard and unsafe for all the investings made in the yesteryear, and the most deciding for the hereafter ( Lagadec, 1993 ) .

In this chapter I will specify what a crisis is and thenceforth do a clear limit of the crisis direction field so that it will non be mistaken for hazard direction, clang direction etc.. Having done this, I will give a short debut to the different types of concern crises and what characterizes them.

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2.1 What is a Business Crisis?

The term crisis has become portion of our mundane linguistic communication. We use it on all sorts of occasions, from the java is cold to Bjarne Riis holding jobs bicycling up Alpe D’Huez, or a lessening in the monthly gross revenues. But how come crisis has evolved to go a cosmopolitan term or look like that of motive, efficiency, or intelligence. One ground is really likely to be the confusion in academic circles because of the deficiency of usage of standard definitions and footings. In this chapter I will seek to do a clear limit of what a concern crisis is and what types we can anticipate to happen. This will enable me to separate concern crises from mundane concern jobs and to group them in a manner that will assist concern directors and others take appropriate actions when confronted with unexpected events.

Most crises that the imperativeness studies of are of a “ uninterrupted ” character. By this I refer to the type of crises that have taken clip to develop, like those of fiscal jobs or gradual beads in market portion. These types of jobs frequently call for turnaround schemes and non for crisis direction. The of import differentiation is that jobs Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

that develop bit by bit are labelled “ evolutionary ” crises, whereas the crises that come as a complete daze for the full organisation are “ traumatic ” in nature1. At this point it is of import to do a differentiation sing perceptual experience. Of class, an evolutionary crisis may come as a complete daze to clients or other stakeholders, including lower degree employees, but this does non alter the nature of the crisis. Likewise, the magnitude of a crisis depends on the perceptual experience of the receiver. What to some is a crisis may be nil but a little incident for others. This makes the definition of crises so of import because if directors are non able to comprehend if a crisis has occurred, the effects for the company may be overpowering. Thus we must find whether we are speaking about a little incident, an accident, a struggle, or a crisis. I will return to this shortly.

To sum up, this thesis is limited to the dealing of the type of crises that come as a complete daze to everyone in the organisation, which means that I will non be covering with the type of crises that have been deriving impulse easy. Naturally, it is frequently seen that the two different types interact, for case, when a company is faced with an unexpected merchandise failure and finds itself excessively abruptly of hard currency to name back the merchandise and relaunch it subsequently. Risk direction and tight fiscal and managerial control should cover with deficit of hard currency and other evolutionary crises. The bar of merchandise failure and the similar should be taken attention of by crisis direction.

I find that one of the most interesting facets of these “ traumatic ” crises is that they are sometimes created externally and that the control is about ever taken out of the custodies of the company. It is my purpose in this thesis to indicate out why and how important it is for a company to derive control in the initial stage of a crisis, as control in the beginning will frequently find whether a company comes out of a crisis, strengthened or weakened. At the same clip externally created crises are most frequently characterized by being perceived as a menace to the populace. And as I mentioned in the introductionary chapter, I will restrict myself to this type of crises.

In the initial stage of a crisis it is important to find if the company is really faced with a crisis or merely a minor job. Let me lucubrate on this. Some directors frequently do non acknowledge whether their company is confronting a existent crisis or merely a serious

1 I will return to this differentiation in chapter 4 when covering with the psychological facets Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

job. The ground being that it is frequently hard to acquire a qualified estimation on how serious the state of affairs is. Furthermore, the conflict between bookmans of what definition of a crisis to utilize has created even more confusion. Let me briefly discourse the different significances of a crisis. In crisis direction literature C.F. Hermann was one of the first to come up with a precise definition:

of crises.

An event surprising persons, curtailing their clip for developing a response, and endangering their high-priority ends.

( Hermann, 1963, quoted in Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992 )

Research workers like R.S. Billing, T.W. Milburn and M.L. Schaalman ( Ibid. ) criticized the definition as did P. Selbst, who accordingly introduced a new working definition:

Any action or failure to move that significantly interferes with an organisation ‘s on traveling maps, the acceptable attainment of its aims, its viability or endurance, or that has a damaging personal consequence as perceived by the bulk of its employees, clients or components.

( Selbst, 1978, quoted in Booth, 1993 )

The above definition is good but it ignores the positive effects that a crisis can hold on an organisation. Mitroff & A ; Pauchant ‘s definition efforts to give a much wider position:

A break that physically affects a system as a whole and threatens its basic premises, its subjective sense of ego, its experiential nucleus.

( Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992 )

I personally prefer Mitroff & A ; Pauchant ‘s definition, but Booth argues good that this definition wholly ignores the single and group and their perceptual experience of crisis. Basically, he argues that “ What could be identified as a crisis by the direction of an endeavor may non be considered a crisis in Pauchant and Mitroff ‘s definition ” ( Booth, 1993 ) . Alternatively he suggests the undermentioned definition:

A state of affairs faced by an person, group or administration which they are unable to get by with by the usage of normal everyday processs and in which emphasis is created by sudden alteration.

( Booth, 1993 ) Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

The chief ground why I have adopted the definition of Mitroff and Pauchant is that Booth ‘s definition is focused on organisational crises and does non cover external crises where a break has non straight affected people. Booth himself points to the job of depicting natural or environmental crises with this definition, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but I besides believe that he has a job of explicating crises that are created out of rumors. Furthermore, Mitroff and Pauchant argue good that the full system must be affected in order to name it a crisis, otherwise it can be labelled either an incident or a struggle.

It can really good be argued that all of this is merely a conflict of words, nevertheless, it does assist us to stipulate what is meant by a crisis. There is much difference between a crisis and an incident, accident, or struggle. Contrary to a crisis, an incident can be described as a break of a constituent, a unit, or a subsystem of a larger system, in a manner that does non endanger the operation of the whole system ( Perrow, 1984, quoted in Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992 ) . Typically, this type of job is a minor one, which can rapidly be repaired or fixed.

An accident is a break that physically affects a system as a whole ( Ibid. ) . Here the job affects the whole company but merely physically, which is the cardinal facet when distinguishing between this and a crisis.

Harmonizing to Habermas a struggle occurs when the symbolic construction of a subsystem is disturbed ( Habermas, 1973, quoted in Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992 ) . An illustration of this was the many layoffs on the bank clerk degree in the Danish banking sector as a consequence of the merger-wave in the late eightiess and early 1990s. Employees in the Danish Bankss by and large thought that one time hired meant employment for the remainder of their working lives. However, this impression was all of a sudden changed and caused struggles in many of the smaller subdivisions ( and many personal crises! ) but did non overall affect the full bank. Habermas distinguishes between the physical and the symbolic bed, where the physical degree encompasses elements such as engineering used, and the symbolic degree includes the subjective significances that inform and direct actions such as the modus operandis of an organisation that provide a sense of individuality for the members ( Ibid. ) .

This leaves us with the crisis that encompasses the whole system, non merely in a physical, but besides in a symbolic manner. Below, I have visualized the four different jobs to a company: Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

Figure 3: Categorizing of jobs for a company.

Subsystem Whole system



Beginning: Own creative activity based on: Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992.

The shown theoretical account should merely be used as a guideline as it can be hard in pattern to find when precisely the whole system is affected and how it is viewed. The dismay bells may travel off when half of the nucleus production is affected or if a rumor is taking on in magnitude. Likewise, unanticipated outgos can do much hurt. A little crisis representing the first facet was when McDonalds in Denmark early in 1997 was accused of doing 200 instances of stomach-illness. Lab trials could non nail what portion of the Burgers had caused this and McDonalds had to trash all of their Burger ingredients in the whole state. An illustration of the latter happened to Dominos Pizza in the U.S. when they lost a civil jurisprudence suit demanding them to pay $ 500 million in liability fees because one of their pizza bringing boys accidentally had killed a kid driving excessively rapidly on his manner to a client.

It becomes even more hard to find when a job has reached the symbolic degree, as it is frequently the clients and employees that sense this and non the direction squad. An illustration where the job rapidly spread from being merely physical to symbolic is the McDonalds instance mentioned supra. Although the company was non proved guilty the clients rapidly went elsewhere, “ merely to be certain ” . As a effect gross revenues in Denmark have dropped and McDonalds has been forced to take down the monetary values of its Burgers with up to 45 % in order to recover its market place. In

Systems Area






AccidentMasters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

the Exxon Valdez instance it took the CEO more than a twelvemonth before he really went to Alaska to see the amendss done by the oil spill, implicating to the populace a terrible deficiency of attention and committedness by Exxon ‘s directors ( Stoller, 1996 ) .

However, even if the boundary line to the symbolic and systems degrees in the diagram may look hard to nail, I still believe it to be a valuable crisis direction tool in the sense that the directors should be able to utilize the matrix as a guideline to where a job may be heading.

In order to sum up, a crisis is defined by:

A break that physically affects a system as a whole and threatens its basic premises, its subjective sense of ego, its experiential nucleus.

Therefore for an event to be a crisis it must impact the whole company, non merely physically but besides in a symbolic manner, so that repute, good will, and employee satisfaction are at interest.

2.2 Crisis Bunchs

Companies are continuously faced with menaces that can develop into all-out crises. Although most crises have some common features, it is helpful to divide them up into groups as this will assist the direction in taking the right tools to forestall or manage them. Harmonizing to Meyers & A ; Holusha there are nine distinguishable types of concern crises ( Meyers & A ; Holusha, 1986 ) :

1 ) Public perceptual experience

2 ) Sudden market displacements

3 ) Merchandise failure

4 ) Hostile coup d’etats

5 ) Adverse international events

6 ) Regulations and deregulatings

7 ) Top direction sequence

8 ) Cash

9 ) Industrial dealingss

“ Traumatic ” crises

“ Evolutionary ” crises Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

Of these nine types, the last three are of evolutionary character, which I have delimited myself from. The remainder have the common denominator that one time the crisis has blown into full graduated table, the control is mostly taken out of the custodies of the direction squad. Therefore it is so really of import that crisis direction stairss are taken before crises occur, while there is clip at manus, and that decisive and proper actions are taken during crises in order to recover some degree of control. I will non travel into item with the different types of crises at this point but simply stress that penetration into the psychological and dynamic facets of crises will give the reader of this thesis a valuable foundation on which matter-of-fact crisis direction stairss can and should be taken.

Although I will non travel into inside informations with the different types of crises, it is worthwhile to include another survey. Like Meyers & A ; Holusha ‘s crisis bunchs, Mitroff and Pearson ‘s extended survey of Fortune 1000 organisations in the U.S gave manner to the findings that crises in general could be grouped under five headers. The manner they did this was to group them in a diagram with two axes. The perpendicular one is technical/economic vs. human/social and the horizontal one measures human behavior from terrible to normal. Their figure is shown below:

Figure 4: Crisis Bunchs by Mitroff & A ; Pearson


External Information


Copyright Infringement

Loss of Information



External Economic Attacks:




Hostile Coup d’etats



Merchandise Defects

Plant Defects

Computer Breakdowns

Poor Operator/Errors

Poor Security






Occupational Health Diseases:




On-site Sabotage/Tampering

Off-site Sabotage/Tampering

Executive Kidnappings

Sexual Harassment



Damage to repute Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

Beginning: Mitroff & A ; Pearson, 1993.

Mitroff and Pearson point out that any member of any of the bunchs can be either the cause or the consequence of any other crisis ( Ibid. ) . This emphasizes the fact that it is necessary to take on a systems attack, as most crises are a consequence of interactions between different incidents. I do, nevertheless, disagree with Mitroff and Pearson in regard to their belief that all of the above members can be the consequence of any other crisis. They argue that a crisis in the bunch of Breaks can be the consequence of a Megadamage crisis. But this makes no sense if we are to follow the differentiation between crises and incidents, accidents, and struggles. The members in the bunchs of Psycho and External Economic Attacks can, from my point of position, merely be causes of crises and nil else. To exemplify my point, imagine that an executive snatch takes topographic point and this is the consequence of a crisis, so what constitutes the crisis itself? To me it seems as if Mitroff and Pearson contradict themselves by naming the events prior to the nobbling a crisis. It is at the most either an incident or an accident but the writers themselves strongly advocate that these should be distinguished from existent crises. I will return to the treatment of cause and effects in the following chapter in my Exxon instance analysis and besides during my scrutiny of the different psychological theories of personal crises.

For now I will keep on to my ain position that certain events cause crises in companies. This means that, basically, all crises are triggered off by an event, which I shall name the “ Traumatic event ” . I will utilize the same term in the crisis-model that I develop in chapter 4. I believe the term can be used on both the single degree and with a few minor accommodations on the organisational degree. Without traveling into much item about the theoretical account I will briefly present it:

Human/Social Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

Figure 5: Own Crisis Model with degree of control

Beginning: Own Creation

First of all it should be noted that the whole box is referred to as the full crisis and should be differentiated from the Crisis Phase, which is merely a sub-part. In the theoretical account the Traumatic Event is the event and can be everything from a hostile coup d’etat effort to a critical defect in a works. As the Traumatic Event will most frequently come as a complete daze to all members in the organisation, it will direct employees and the company itself on to Phase two where a province of emphasis is induced. An incident, accident, or struggle can non do this. However, as they all over clip can take to a crisis, it must connote that the Traumatic Event may get down as a little incident and so roll up in size and content, and stop up by traveling the full company into the Stress-phase. Thus the Traumatic Event does non ever come as a complete surprise to everyone in the company. In world, many incidents and accidents occur in companies every twenty-four hours, but as they are most frequently little in range the organisation is able to keep a high grade of control in respect to the incident and will therefore avoid the Crisis wholly. Merely jobs that physically impact the organisation as a whole and endanger its basic premises, its subjective sense of ego, and its experiential nucleus may ensue in a crisis. In such a instance is really likely that the degree of


High control

Traumatic event

Recovery Phase



Low control



Phase 3

Phase 2

Phase 1

Phase 4 Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

control of the direction squad has been critically reduced and accordingly the organisation will be hurled into the Crisis stage.

Four stages is used in my theoretical account to depict a crisis, and it could for that affair besides be applicable for smaller types of concern jobs. Therefore smaller jobs may besides travel through the Traumatic Event, the Stress stage, and the Recovery stage without holding terrible impact on the organisation. Because of the little range of the job it ne’er reach the Crisis stage although if this rhythm continues for some clip it may easy derive impulse until the degree of control becomes so low that the Crisis stage can non be avoided. Nevertheless, I will restrict my theoretical account to events that instantly result in a crisis. Having said this, I must indicate out that of the few incidents, accidents, or struggles that turn out to go existent crises about all of them evolve so rapidly that it becomes disused to speak of anterior rhythms. The velocity of the events means that it still makes sense to speak of an unexpected daze to the company as a whole ( Stoller, 1996 ) .

The Crisis stage is of course really of import for the company and I will travel into more item with it from chapter 3 and onwards. Likewise with the Recovery stage, which plays a important function in respect to the larning procedure of crises and how to better and develop crisis direction attempts.

2.3 Reasons for Adopting Crisis Management

There are many grounds for originating crisis direction plans but in times when the impression of competitory advantage is prevailing, the undermentioned quotation mark from economic expert Patrick Lagadec should actuate a treatment of the crisis direction field:

aˆ¦emerging menace: those who stay on the out of boundss of these attempts may non last really long in a unsmooth state of affairs, faced with competition from histrions who are better prepared. In both Europe and North America, it has been observed that the taking organisations in this field are acquiring a considerable caput start. This gives them a decisive strategic advantageaˆ¦

( Lagadec, 1993 )

Not merely does crisis direction spring companies a competitory advantage but it besides prepares them for times that could earnestly impact any company, irrespective of size, if Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

safeguards are non taken. Companies may be affected financially, by a degrading of image, lessening in client trueness, or on a figure of other foreparts. Many philosophers and theoreticians point out that the 1990s are characterized by a universe of uncertainness and exposure where anyone can be harmed if merely a little portion of the complex systems of our society fails. Igor Ansoff has pointed out that merely a few decennaries ago organisations could make with after-the-fact controls because the gait of alteration was sufficiently slow. Today, nevertheless, directors must redesign their organisations in order for them to get by with the increased dependance on the composite and of all time altering environment ( Lagadec, 1993 ) . Communication adviser Claudia Reinhardt quotes three grounds for the enlargement of the crisis direction field ( Reinhardt, 1987 ) :

1. The growing of the electronic media as the primary beginning of intelligence

2. The increasing media understanding of special-interest groups ( either by presenting terrorist or the media-oriented events or by having their ain media mercantile establishments )

3. The rapid growing of instantaneous planetary communicating

The three grounds are focused on the communicating facets of crises, but in general companies must be flexible and able to cover quickly with state of affairss whose result can non be predicted. Overall, it is my belief that organisations must look further than the standard eventuality programs and alternatively take up crisis direction and do it one of the most of import strategic direction tools of the following decennary.

2.4 Is Crisis Management an Independent Research Field?

Risk direction, clang direction, issue direction, and eventuality planning are merely a twosome of the many direction tools that are offered to companies in hunt for an alternate insurance of unexpected events. The market for these tools is dining here in the 1990s, particularly in the U.S. where colourful paper-back books on the subject seem to cover most of the bookshelves. Unfortunately, much of this literature is of small usage besides stressing the importance of the subject. The account is straightforward. Crisiss are about ever really complex and touch upon so many facets that an “ easy to follow usher ” is misdirecting, at the really best. Patrick Lagadec Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

uses a notable metaphor of a kaleidoscope. He argues that like a crisis the construction of a kaleidoscope is altered if even the smallest component is touched upon ( Lagadec, 1993 ) , and so crises take on new and of all time altering forms as we try to cover with them. Without being excessively preoccupied with metaphors, I like to see crises as mercury that has leaked from a thermometer ( the company ) and no affair what actions are taken the mercury seems to hold its ain life and seeks to hedge all efforts of containment by happening new waies.

What this fundamentally means is that there are no easy solutions to crises and that insofar no individual book on the subject should be looked upon as a “ entirely script ” . Crisis direction offers an highly valuable penetration into the kineticss of crises, but it is still a comparatively new field of survey and much work lies in front. Before go forthing the topic for a piece, it is deserving observing that although all crises are different in content, size, and range they do hold some common features. Mitroff and Pauchant were able to group the different types of crises into 7 bunchs, as shown in subdivision 2.2, and I will subsequently in the thesis return to some of the general facets of crises. By making so it becomes easier to pull out and develop some general strategic crisis direction tools and advice in regard to traumatic crises that are perceived to endanger the populace. Having said this, it is deserving taking a expression at some of the older and more theoretically grounded theories, particularly risk direction.

Hazard can be defined as “ the potency for the realization of unwanted effects from impending events ” ( Rowe, 1979, quoted in Booth, 1993 ) and differs from crisis in the sense that in a crisis, hazards have been realized. This can logically take to the decision that crises occur when hazard direction has failed and that crisis direction must take over from at that place on. This, nevertheless, sets crisis direction equal to crash direction, which I will return to subsequently in this subdivision, as a kind of Band-Aid attack. This is a position that I disagree with, as I believe crisis direction is more than merely “ seting out the fire ” .

In hazard direction the focal point is treble. Companies will typically first effort to gauge the likeliness of a given event taking topographic point. Second, a determination of which hazards to cover will be made, and eventually, the pick of which instrument to use will be made. Slightly simplified it can be said that hazard direction is about happening the company ‘s hazards, cover those hazards that are distinct Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

upon, and making it at the lowest costs. Examples of hazards that are frequently covered by hazard direction are currency fluctuations, contractual hazards, and involvement rate hazards.

The job of traditional hazard direction is that it minimizes the function of psychological science and the indirect effects on the system. Because it is founded on chance computations it frequently neglects that certain events with comparatively little likeliness can hold black effects non merely for the specific unit, but besides for the full organisation, economically every bit good as psychologically. It is argued that hazards can be measured, compared, and quantified. On this footing actions may be taken to minimise hazards in the most cost-effective manner. Still, even risk direction experts agree that no sum of rational analysis of hazards or even excess systems of control can forestall all accidents. There will ever be a opportunity of, for illustration, a human mistake, as when the Captain of Exxon Valdez was rummy, or with the meddling of merchandises, as witnessed by Johnson & A ; Johnson ‘s Tylenol capsules. These are two illustrations that I will return to and discourse in subdivision 6.2. Robert Jackall adds to this by saying:

aˆ¦precisely in those technological countries where accidents have seldom occurred that the largest possible calamities loom ; the really deficiency of pattern in reacting rapidly to indecent incidents can precipitate unmanageable events.

( Jackall, 1993 )

The intent of hazard direction is by and large to maximise stockholder value2 and this is done by seeking to optimise the portfolio of hazard instruments in a manner that generates the most value to the company without giving long-run strategic goals3. This is shown in the diagram below where crisis direction is besides plotted:

Figure 6: Hazard Management Value Creation

Optimum R.M. point

Net incomes



I? Value generated by hazard direction

No. of hazards covered

2 The option to the maximization of stockholder value is to maximise stakeholder value

3 Risk direction, if executed to excess, has the downside of restricting the upside-potential and can therefore be an hindrance to competitory advantage ( Falk, 1997 ) . Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

Beginning: Own creative activity

The country under the curve is the fiscal addition of carry oning hazard direction. The optimum point for the typical hazard inauspicious company is where the curve interacts with the x-axis. At this point a big figure of hazards are covered without any direct costs for the company. A more aggressive attack will be to restrict the figure of hazards covered in order to derive financially on hazard direction.

The optimum point from a crisis direction position lies below the optimum hazard direction point and can be explained by a figure of factors. In crisis direction a systems attack is taken, so even if some hazards statistically do non name for action or insurance, the event may do damaging spill-over effects for the remainder of the company. An illustration of this can be that the clients ‘ favourable feeling of the company is radically altered or that the event carries unanticipated disbursals with it. A well-known illustration of this was the Exxon Valdez accident where 1000s of litres of oil were spilled in ecological delicate countries in Alaska4. Before the accident took topographic point the directors of Exxon, utilizing hazard direction, had estimated the chance of such a catastrophe to 1/1,000,000 ( Stevens, 1989, quoted in Mitroff & A ; Pauchant, 1992 ) . The clean-up costs of Valdez were estimated at about one billion dollars and puting this into the equation ( $ 1 bn. & A ; 1/1,000,000 ) gives no more than one thousand dollars. This was seemingly non viewed as an of import hazard, but what the directors of Exxon forgot was that the impact reached far beyond the killing costs. It affected the repute of the company, which resulted in crisp beads in good will and the portion monetary value, and gave manner to the damaging cases subsequently on ( Ibid. ) . Exxon lost unprecedented $ 6 billion on the cases entirely! ( Augustine, 1995 ) .

At the other terminal of the spectrum we find “ crash direction ” , which is by and large characterized as the actions a company undertakes when a crisis is at its extremum. Unfortunately, crisis direction has in much academic literature been misinterpreted as the same as clang direction. It is true that crisis direction

Optimum Crisis Management point

4 See instance analyzis 3.3.2 for an in-debt history of the Exxon Valdez crisis. Masters Thesis Chapter 2: What Is Crisis Management?

encompasses this reactive attack to crises, but it besides includes a proactive portion where analyses are conducted to analyze why crises happen in the first topographic point, and