Handling a Crisis


You will never be as level-headed and capable of handling a crisis as when you aren’t in the middle of one.

“What will I do if my car breaks down?”

That’s an excellent question to ask yourself before your car breaks down. I’m lazy when planning many things, but cars can break down, so this seems like the right question to ask before a long trip or a critical errand. Not during.

Contingency Planning

Planning for the inevitable is more art than science. How detailed a plan you need in advance depends on whether you’re the only one affected. You may prefer to “wing it” more often than not. But that’s not as interesting as tackling a crisis as a group…

“What will we do if our bus breaks down?”

This question is more interesting and harder to answer because the problem can disproportionately affect a group. What’s an inconvenience for you may be catastrophic for someone elseā€”the game changes when a crisis involves a group.

Social Dynamics

Groups can have a hard time envisioning success the same way, such that talking about failure can be mistaken as a sign of failure itself. However, the best leaders I’ve seen can guide a team to think through failure & contingency while remaining positive throughout. Envisioning success and planning for failure are not mutually exclusive.

“What if this project fails?”

Social dynamics can get in the way of contingency planning. Look back on a failed plan and ask yourself if there was a way the fallout could have been minimized if not prevented. Could hiring slower provide a longer runway for a failed business? What signals could have shown you a change in market volatility? In hindsight, everything is obvious, so it’s important not to beat yourself over the head with what you discover.

But hindsight can be an excellent tool for learning.

The solution may seem obvious in hindsight, but how can one identify the “obvious solution” while in a crisis? Mainly when so many external factors present themselves at once.

The World in Crisis

The universe doesn’t care if you decide something is not allowed to fail. It may fail for the simplest or dumbest reasons and beyond your wildest expectations.

Contingency planning and assessing risk isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s also not rocket science. Take time to consider your failure scenarios often and consider how you’ll address them if they present themselves. It goes a long way toward reacting positively to other opportunities.