The purpose of a contingency plan is to improve the way we handle unwanted incidents, both individually and as an organisation. To make progress, we need to learn, and the only way to learn is by evaluating how we've managed an incident in the past and pinpoint what we can do to improve.
Deviations that occur must be resolved, and it is therefore essential that evaluations identify these discrepancies, describe how they will be addressed, and assign responsibility to a specific person.
In a real life event, it's equally important to gather experience about the actions taken and build competence within the organisation. This will help you be better prepared for the next incident.
Great Crisis Management is a Brand Building Opportunity
A crisis can impact your organisation's reputation significantly, and both the manner in which you handle an ongoing crisis and how you've handled them in the past will greatly affect how stakeholders perceive your company.
In his book, Ongoing Crisis Communications, Professor Timothy Coombs states that if stakeholders claim an organisation is going through a crisis, there's no denying it, and a crisis will pose a much bigger threat to an organisation that has experienced similar incidents previously. There is also a greater risk of damaging a brand if the organisation already has a reputation for handling events poorly. This can be countered by managing a new crisis in a satisfactory manner, and evaluating the process. In this way, the organisation will be better equipped to handle future challenges. And, in fact, handling a crisis well, and communicating this properly, can actually have a positive effect upon your brand and your team's morale.
What Should Be Evaluated?
After an exercise, we evaluate our performance based on the purpose of the exercise. In a real life crisis, we evaluate ourselves based on how far we deviate from the plan. It looks something like this:
All inputs, views, and experiences should be collected and gathered in one place. The questions that should be answered are:
- What's happened?
- Why did it happen?
- Who was involved?
- Who was notified?
- What did we do?
- What worked?
- What didn't work?
- How much time did we spend?
It's important that everyone who had a role in the handling of an incident shares how the plan was executed from their point of view. There might be reasons beyond your control that lead to deviations from the plan – maybe you had to improvise and discovered a more efficient way to perform your tasks. Experiences like these must be included in an updated version of the plan.
How to Evaluate Your Contingency Plan
Although evaluations typically come at the end of a process, they should be prepared for way in advance. When developing the contingency plan with training routines, it is important that you establish a structure for evaluation. Traditionally, this has involved putting together a range of questionnaires to be distributed to those involved and then collecting and reviewing the feedback.
Modern, digital systems for contingency and crisis management simplify the evaluation process, because you can establish modules for evaluation as part of the menu structure or use the survey functionality to gather information from all the participants.
All input will thus be collected in one place and can be reviewed and processed by the organisation’s contingency manager. Feedback is given throughout the system and the people who have been assigned the task of making changes in the plan or notification systems can do so in the same tool. This ensures that necessary improvements are recorded and actions are taken.
A contingency plan has the greatest value when it is kept up to date and constantly evaluated. But, before you can perform optimisation activities, you need a strong starting point. If you’d like to learn more about what your contingency plan should contain, including a step-by-step guide to preparation, content, and implementation, download our free e-guide now.