Crisis Management the Prevailing Literature Term Paper

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Crisis Management

The prevailing literature on crisis management sheds light as to why crisis management remains a significant issue both at the micro-level (personal emergencies) and at the macro level (organizational or societal emergencies). The literature is divided and lacks clear focus and definitions, despite the efforts of some authors to provide this clarity. Different disciplines remain married to their own definitions of crisis and their own concepts of crisis management. Yet it seems clear that all crises have the same core components -- it is only the scope and setting that differ. Crisis, simply put, is a deviation from the expected norm that has a sense of temporal urgency and high negative consequence attached to it.

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The literature hints at two specific means of addressing crises. One method of viewing crises is to place emphasis on prevention, which can be done through training, the development of systems and protocols and through the cultivation of a strong organizational mindset that accepts crisis and views it as a transformational opportunity. The other method is focused more on the restoration of order -- a return to the old norm if possible and if not to the next best new norm available. The second approach is useful and appropriate in situations where transformation is neither possible nor desirable. Moorthy et al. (2006) discuss the issue of training for crises in surgery. As the surgery itself carries the goal of restoring the patient to a better condition and the surgery already deemed the best course of action for achieving that objective, certainly any "transformation" is likely to be viewed as a less that ideal outcome. Yet even when transformation is not desirable, prevention is, although prevention alone does not prohibit the emergence of crisis.

Term Paper on Crisis Management the Prevailing Literature on Crisis Assignment

It is proposed that this research further the study of crisis prevention. Moorthy outlines training factors; Roux-Dufort (2007) focuses on mindset; Ruddy discusses communication infrastructure; and there are other factors at work as well. This study aims to present a synthesis of the different antecedents of crisis, in particular with respect to the issues of organizational culture. Some organizations and some individuals are simply better equipped to manage crisis, and that is by their own design. It is proposed then that a study be undertaken to determine the differences in organizational culture between those individuals and organizations that respond well to crisis and those that do not.

The study will incorporate a wide variety of organizations in order to determine if there is a linkage between organizational culture and successful response to crises. If such a linkage can be shown, it will provide the impetus for further study with regards to culture and crisis. The softer, personality-oriented elements of crisis management have at times been overlooked in the literature. Yet those elements can be specifically cultivated in order to develop an organization that responds better to crisis. Some organizations -- the military and various emergency services organizations in particular -- develop cultures capable of managing crises out of necessity. Other organizations seem entirely unable to manage a deviation from the expected norms, especially those that convey a sense of urgency or importance. This study will help to determine what types of cultural markers can be identified that work or do not work in crisis management situations.

Literature Review

Pearson and Mitroff (1993) provide a discussion of crisis management and a framework for the management to both avert crises and to respond to those crises that do emerge. One of the elements of this framework is risk assessment by which management can identify the crises most likely to impact the organization. This is important in understanding the ways that management contributes to the cause of the crises. Some risk arises from the normal conditions of doing business -- oil spills for shipping and exploration companies for example. If management better understands the causes of crises, then management can be better prepared to address these crises at the causal level. Failure to address crises at the causal level will result in superficial fixes that fail to restore true stabilization to the situation and fail to mitigate the risk of future crises. The management systems by which crises can be addressed are also discussed, providing a baseline framework for restabilization. In addition, the authors consider the stakeholder perspective, which helps managers to understand the different ways in which a given crisis is viewed by the organization's stakeholders. This will allow management to develop better restabilization solutions.

Pearson followed up this work, with Clair (1998) by integrating much of the previous literature on the subject. Crisis management was inherently recognized as a difficult issue to address because of the multidisciplinary nature of crises and the fact that each crises presents its own unique set of circumstances and solutions. The authors seek in this work to define organizational crisis and crisis management and utilize this common language to help focus future research on the subject. While the concept of crisis management appears in the literature for a number of different managerial disciplines, the authors feel that the study of the discipline is best served by uniting in some ways the different underlying perspectives from which the subject have been approached.

More recently, Roux-Dufort (2007) proposes that crisis management has become a narrow field dedicated to exception management. The preventative elements of the discipline have been largely forgotten in both the literature and practice. The author revisits Pearson's early work by re-focusing crisis management thought on preparation for crisis, but at the most fundamental level. It is posited that crises emerge from "fault lines" that are largely predictable. As such, the organization can undertake steps to manage crises before they occur. If the crisis is viewed as a deviation from the norms of managerial control, then crisis management becomes a discipline focused on re-establishing that control (restabilization). However, if crisis management is focused on averting crises in the first place, then responses will be better prepared and fewer crises will arise. In addition, the author posits that viewing crises as temporary will reduce the sense of urgency to act, which will reduce poor decisions and stress on the front line staff and that crisis is an opportunity to redefine the organization rather than a disaster that has befallen the organization.

Farazmand (2007) focuses on emergency management during Hurricane Katrina to illustrate some of the concepts in crisis management literature. Crisis management, it is argued, is a combination of preparedness and response. The author introduces chaos and complexity theories to help understand the nature of crisis management in practice. For example, it is argued once a crisis hits, managers are faced with hyperuncertainties and as a result they must have defined strategies for the re-establishment of control. Leadership is a critical element, but so is the ability of that leadership to adapt to different situations and to rapidly identify and collaborate with the different stakeholders.

The evolution of crisis management is a factor that should not be ignored in the study of the subject. Technology, in particular communication technology and infrastructure, has the capability to affect a paradigm shift in crisis management tactics. Reddy, et al. (2009) study the use of communication technology and its impacts on crisis management in the EMS industry. The use of communication problems was studied using focus groups and some issues arose that could complicate such systems. For example, communications systems must support socio-technical issues such as awareness, context and workflow between different teams. These findings illustrate that systems design plays a critical role in crisis management. Even with strong technology, front-line workers are unlikely to be able to have control and therefore need strong systems for dictating workflow. While one would prefer front line workers to operate with more intelligence and independence, these findings indicate that the reason why a crisis is because it makes it difficult for front line workers to take control of the situation. Management therefore must design all of its systems -- communication and otherwise -- in such a manner that allows management to establish control over a difficult situation even when front line workers themselves are unable to do so.

Moorthy et al. (2006) study crisis management in operating rooms in order to gain insight into crisis responses in difficult situations. The authors note that surgical crisis management is learned in an unstructured manner. In aviation, it is not, but is rather learned through the use of simulators. The authors test the use of simulated operating theaters on the ability of medical staff to learn more effective crisis management techniques. The authors find that such simulations are useful in training for crisis management. This finding is interesting when taken into context of some of the earlier research that focuses on predictable crises and posits that management can improve crisis performance by understanding the most predictable risks and building in systems to address those risks in advance of the crisis. The use of scenario training is common for emergency drills -- be they earthquake drills along fault… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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