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Crisis management in the workplace (and in the Learning Journey)

Kirjoittanut: Samu Nyqvist - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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A crisis in the workplace refers to an unexpected or disruptive event that has the potential to make a big negative impact on the organization. These crises can occur in many shapes and forms, from natural disasters and cyber attacks to financial emergencies and public relations crises (Techtarget.com). Due to recent global events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the topic of crisis management is very at-hand and relevant to any business organization.

Though not all “crises” match the magnitude of those that deal with people losing their lives or livelihood, dealing with them follows roughly the same guidelines and strategy. Some situations can be treated as crises inside the team, even though they may seem insignificant to outsiders. A good example of this is SYNTRE Osk’s learning journey.

Crisis management has been implemented in SYNTRE Osk’s operations, in one way or another for a while now. One of the most recent examples dates back to the beginning of March, to our Learning Journey. We were hosting a fellow team academy company, Novio, from Switzerland on their trip to collaborate with us. We had planned everything and made a schedule with one goal in mind: to learn from each other, capture the knowledge learned, and put it into practice in the form of a project. However, during the process of creating the project, our project manager became absent. This created panic in the team since the success of the project was vital to us passing the course and without a project lead, this would not be possible.

Without the appropriate approach of crisis management, the learning journey would have fallen into chaos. In this essay, I will reflect on the Learning Journey with an emphasis on crisis management in the workplace.

Managing a crisis is a job that should be treated with care and detail. It requires preparation and planning, leadership, communication and coordination, and quick response. It is recommended to have a plan for the worst-case scenario that can be followed in the event of a crisis. When a plan is in place, leaders are enabled to take charge, people know how to operate, and the damage can be controlled to cause lesser damage to the organization According to Opexmanagers.com, the process of managing a crisis can be narrowed down to four basic steps:

1.    Containing and understanding the situation
2.    Investigating the cause of the problem
3.    Outlining how to resolve the problem
4.    Setting (long-term) changes in motion.
  • Opexmanagers.com (2020)

Each crisis will also require different approaches to resolving them. In the case of SYNTRE Osk’s Learning Journey, a plan was in place to make sure that each team member knew what their role was and how they could contribute to the success of the project. We had leaders in place with their own responsibilities and team members divided into teams. What we didn’t have, however, was a backup plan to follow when things didn’t go according to the original plan. This is when leadership and communication within the team became prominent in fixing the situation. When noticing that the project side of the journey was lacking due to the project leader’s absence (understanding the situation), our manager Doneé was quick to react and reach out to a substitute leader to take his place (resolving the problem), who happened to be me. Through clearly communicating and expressing her trust in me and the need for me to step in to take responsibility (setting changes in motion), I felt motivated and obligated to do so.

Doneé showed great leadership in coordinating the situation. “You need to delegate and trust your people as they make tough decisions, providing proper support and guidance based on your experience while resisting the temptation to take over.” – E. McNulty & L. Marcus (HBR 2020). By showing trust, putting faith in me and supporting me in the process, we managed to quickly react and make the most of the time left we had with the Swiss students. After seeing that the problem was reacted to, the team felt at ease, and the chaos started to quiet down.  Most importantly, we ended up with a result that both our team and Novio could be content with.

After the crisis had been averted to the best of our capabilities, it was time for evaluation. We held a Motorola, or a “post-crisis review”, in which we concluded that lack of transparency, wrong assumptions of roles and responsibilities, and lack of commitment led to us facing the crisis during the Learning Journey.

Crises can occur in any organization in one way or another and can have a negative impact on the organization if not handled appropriately. Preparation, planning, leadership, communication, and coordination, as well as quick response, have a lot to do in the management of any crisis. Each crisis will require a different approach to resolve them. By containing and understanding the situation, investigating the cause of the problem, outlining how to resolve the problem, and setting changes in motion, can you control the damage caused by the crisis. For SYNTRE Osk, effective crisis management in the future requires transparency, a clear description of roles and responsibilities, and commitment to work together to overcome the crisis. By learning from the crisis and evaluating what went wrong, organizations like ours can put measures in place to avert future crises and minimize the impact of any that may occur.




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