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In the vast majority of cases, regardless of the duration, the end success or su ccessful resolution to a crisis is determined by the initial actions in the firs t 24 hours. Often referred to as the â Golden Hourâ in emergency medicine, the initial h ur of the first 24 hours is the foundation upon which the primary phase is predi cated. The events, information and decision making process during these two phas es will place both individuals and multi national corporations upon a path that will over time will provide less opportunity for change and influence than at th is juncture. While the incidents and information injects, whether actively or pa ssively collected, may change, the fundamental decision making methodology will remain relatively constant due to the leader or crisis management teams experien ce, skills and training. It is for this reason that the greatest emphasis due to the potential outcomes remains the burden of those in a position to determine t he outcomes. In broad terms, individual entities or multi-dimensional companies are classifie d into two categories when managing a crisis or significant event. The first of those categories is that of the Responder who is largely driven by the events an d is forced to react to each and every information inject or demand due to the a bsence of preparation and planning joined with the lack or limitation on resourc es. The second of these two categories, and the most desired, is that to the Imp lementer who is characterized by the ability to activate resources and follow a pre-prepared and trained plan with the support of an array of supporting stakeho lders, constructed responses and proactively formulated decision making guidelin es that reduce the time from event to response. The Implementer would typically be equally experienced as they are trained with significantly more emphasis on t he latter. The primary and secondary phases of the first 24 hours will see the R esponder desperately attempting to understand the situation, often with limited redundancy and support, while trying to time appropriate responses and activatio n of resources with little understanding of the strategic goals or longer term e ffects of these crucial decisions. This will be further exacerbated by the lack of experience or knowledge on the time taken to implement plans and the activati on of vital resources. In contrast, the Responder during the primary and seconda ry phases will be aligning support plans and stakeholders with preferred outcome s and anticipating events to potentially mitigate escalation of the situation or becoming reactionary focused. Typically the Implementer will seek to maintain a rapid escalation of support elements and appropriate resources with the option to then gradually deescalate or stand-down a range of options appropriate to the incident once they have sufficient control of information that the situation do es not warrant the engagement of such resources or services. History and more contemporary times are littered with examples whereby Governmen t Leaders, Military Commanders, Corporate Leaders, Community Leaders and the lik e have failed to identify the impact of the events or incidents that have ultima tely lead to an apparent disproportional result. Their failure or lack of approp riate response, relative to the potential impact and not necessarily the current information or perception, has lead to dire strategic consequences. As a result , it is these initial tactile decisions and responses that can in all likelihood determine the eventual outcome, favorable or otherwise. The Golden Hour in medical terms is the most crucial time in which to both stabi lize a patient suffering from significant injury or illness and to determine the best course of action in order to provide them with the most appropriate form o f medical care supported by adequate resources. This decision making process is often done in remote locations, at the scene of an accident or within the emerge ncy rooms of the nearest treatment facility. While this reference is centered mo re towards an individual or groups affected by such events the process and outco mes are indicative of the interaction it has with all the stakeholders affected and the commonalities faced by business in general. Firstly, the affected partie
s may well be key elements to an organization or business that is dependant upon their contribution and will undoubtedly respond with all available resource for both the preservation of life and the continuity of business. Secondly, the pro cess for escalation and decision making, including the activation of services an d resources, will be made in the absence of a technical expert such as a doctor. As is the case with almost all business crisis in the initial stages. Even then , the measure to which any trained and experienced expert pertaining to crisis m anagement will be limited to a large degree by the actions of the first responde rs and their support resources. Tactile and spontaneous decisions made in the immediate stages of a developing i ncident that could lead to a crisis or disaster event have strategic consequence s. These consequences may not affect an immediate impact but overtime could over shadow the incident itself. For instance, the decision to act in the absence of consultation or verification could result in legal, compliance, ethical, morale, code of conduct, medical or criminal violations to which the parent organizatio n will be responsible, or held to account, for the actions of one or more respon ders. Irrespective of the fact that the decision at the time may have in fact sa ved lives, prevented further disasters or simply maintained business continuity the strategic consequence could be just the opposite. While it is neither effective nor possible to script every potential incident an d provide policy and processes to support such events, especially in the event o f crisis, it can go a long way to mitigate many of the aforementioned issues and negative impacts. Even if during the post incident autopsy it is confirmed that a sound and consistent decision making process was employed with an appropriate degree of accountability and supported resources but ended in a less than favor able outcome, it will hold the organization and the individuals in far greater s tead to know they did their utmost at the time but the situation was not recover able despite best efforts and planning than to have made spontaneous decisions a nd decrees on the fly. Enabling first responders, supervisors and crisis management elements to draw up on the collective knowledge of their peers and industry experts, with pretreated plans, budgets and designated resources appropriate to the risk and potential i mpact will significantly reduce the time from incident to response and prove to be a better overall strategy for the management of limited and significant crisi s events. These plans should be both comprehensive and accessible to those that require access it but also simplified for immediate reference and implementation . This is equally applicable to any support services or resources that may be re quired in the event of particular incidents. Should partial or full responsibili ty of supporting this process be apportioned to external agencies or third party providers then they in turn should be equally if not more prepared for their ro les and responsibilities. Sadly, all this amounts to nothing if the plan is not widely disseminated, trained and rehearsed with a degree of regularity to accoun t for changing circumstances and new talent and roles. While crisis management is often discussed and held up as the benchmark of prepa redness and effectiveness, this is essentially still the realm of the Responder. In order to manage a crisis there is a disproportionate amount of time spent wa iting for information injects, set circumstances, triggers and qualifying action s before implementing a plan that is known to be in existence and its results de termined by the measure of its application. Crisis leadership is the true virtue of the Implementer. By proactively assessing events and mobilizing resources an d the means in which to act before the situation demands, reduces the timeline o f impact and in most cases reduces the overall affect the event/s may have on an organization and its personnel. It is often a far more cost effective applicati on of resources also. In the modern and developing business world there is simply more information and
access to information than ever before. While this has lead to many efficiencie s and advancements it has not advanced the capacity or effectiveness of crisis m anagement elements at a comparable rate. If this were the case we would incur li ttle to no crisis events and very incidents affecting organization and their per sonnel would ever need be reported in the media. Effective crisis leadership is learned by training and exposure with sufficient support services and resources. The critical time in which to apply this talent however remains the same, the G olden Hour and the first 24 hours. No amount of preparation and weighty plans wi ll resolve undesirable events in the advanced stages as a direct result of poor leadership and management in the primary phases. It is therefore of paramount im portance adequate depth, training and resourcing be focused on this pivotal stag e.
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