Managing a Crisis
a problem becomes a crisis when the media joins the story
The ability to deal successfully with a major institutional crisis is one of the most rigorous tests for any management team. As we have seen countless times, brand reputations that were built over many years of hard work can be destroyed overnight. One only has to think of the names in the news in recent years — Olympus, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Motors, Takata — to understand the severity of these risks.
Each of these were largely driven by highly negative media coverage that is highly difficult to change and impossible to stop. In many ways the whole concept of a “scandal” defines news from the perspective of most media organizations.
Japan represents even greater hurdles to tackling a crisis due to a number of unique factors that we have seen over the years in assisting clients in such situations.
- News of a potential problem will travel upward slowly, if at all. With the traditional respect for authority, junior staff are unlikely to want to raise a potential problem, often until it is too late.
- Even when the crisis reaches senior management, there is a tendency to believe that protecting the “status quo” is the best way to save jobs and keep the company from collapsing. Often, the opposite is actually the case.
- Few Japanese companies and organizations have invested the time and attention that western firms have had in place for many years. This support for proper crisis management must start at the very top of the organization.
- The Japanese news media, which is much more deferential than their western counterparts in their usual coverage, will turn highly hostile and combative when an organization is seen to have done something that can damage the public in some way. When Japan Air Lines started to see a number of accidents, they were soon hit with full-blown coverage of even routine mechanical problems. This distorted the truth of what was happening but nevertheless eventually forced them into bankruptcy.
As ever, the best solution to a corporate crisis is prevention. While the negative stories above show what can go wrong, there are many cases of where a problem did not turn into a public crisis through proper and ethical handling when the issues first emerged.
We can provide either English or English/Japanese programs either in a half-day or full-day schedule that will help executives understand the background to crises and to have the opportunity to work through a crisis that will test the organization’s readiness and their own abilities to pull together a team to work to a common goal.
Your reputation is too valuable to take for granted.
Follow me on: