[ECAR 2006] Sustaining the Campus Through a Crisis – Michael Diamond


Michael Diamond is a Professor at USC in the Business School and Senior Partner in Academic Leadership Associates.

What is Crisis Management and Why it’s important?
– it’s not planning for one incident in isolation
– thinking about planning for a wide range of crises and especially their interactions.

How is a crisis different from an incident?
– it’s often the interaction among crises and the interaction between human behavior and some particular event or incident
– It is often the ability of the team to anticipate these interactions and prepare for them.

Human Factors vs. Natural Disasters
– From a time perspective, the factors / potential for human-caused crises are in place BEFORE the natural disasters.

One way to look at things is whether they’re predictable and/or preventable.

The outrage over Katrina was mostly about the preventable and predictable human factors, not the natural disaster.

Crisis Management in the Current Environment
– A world of instant communications – youtube, the blogoshpere, cable TV.
– Leads to a world of instant anlysis, demand for instant answers, and the blame game and drudging up o fold incidents.
– this leads to the quick loss of control of almost any crisis.
– no crisis ever consists of a single crisis, but most organizations rarely consider more than a few types in planning for crises and even fewer consider the interactsions – e.g. loss of research data at Tulane from Katrina.

A Crisis Mnaagement Framework
– Before: expose eaknesses and build capabilities
– During: enact capabilities
– After – learn and redesign

– Systematically think about the whole range of businesses you’re in – e.g. hotel and food services; retail stores; entertainment and events; property management; health care; insurance; conference business; IT business, etc.

– under crisis mechanisms is signal-detection – every crisis sends out a repeated trail of early-warning signal.

Potential crises / ticking time bombs – think about the things that can happen in each of the businesses.

Assessing the Current State of Crisis Management in Universities and Colleges
Change Magazine article, Jan/Feb 2006

Surveyed 117 institutions around the US. Found that colleges and universities are generally not prepared for crises, though they may be prepared for physical emergencies. When they are prepared, it’s only for those things that they had experienced in the past. Most institutions do not have a broad-based management crisis team. Most did very little crisis management training, though they did train for emergency preparedness.

Recommendations for Effective Crisis Management

– Be prepared for a broad range of crises by developing a crisis portfolio
– Develop a list of ticking time bombs and understand what events could set them off.
– Develop a crisis map – e.g. what buildings does the most important research take place in? What are the most substandard buildings on campus? What’s the relationship between the two maps? Where are there little kids on campus?
– Form a multidisciplinary crisis management team.
– Make sure that team is trained to handle a series of broad ranging and unanticipated crises, including reputational crises.
– Make sure the university has a clear chain of command.
– Make sure that adequate non-technology based communications are available.
– Find ways to increase support for crisis management as a leadership imperative.
– Systematically review and learn from the crises faced by other academic institutions.

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