IT Managers Need To Learn How To Avoid A Crisis Before It Happens

by drjim on March 31, 2011

You can't prevent a crisis; however, you can be ready for it…

You can’t prevent a crisis; however, you can be ready for it…

You’d think that to be a good IT manager all that you’d have to be good at is managing people and understanding technology. Most of the time you’d be correct; however, it’s the times when this isn’t the case that far too many IT managers drop the ball.

Let’s face it, crisis happen. We’d all like to shut our eyes and pretend that they don’t, but that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Instead, what we need to do is before they happen, we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from happening in the first place. The trick is understanding how to go about doing this…

Just What Is A Crisis?

A crisis is any change that suddenly causes a problem for you as an IT manager. You really can’t predict when they are going to happen; however, you need to be able to deal with them swiftly when they show up.

As an IT manager, your team will look to you for direction when a crisis hits. The decisions that you make during a crisis can either make the situation better or worse.

Although we’d all like to be able to anticipate when a crisis is going to occur, that simply is not possible. The reason that we always seem to be surprised when a crisis shows up is that there are so many different sources of crisis. Natural events such as winter storms, floods, lightning strikes, along with earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes can all strike at almost any time. National health emergencies (bird flu anyone?) and environmental disasters (BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010) can also occur without warning.

On top of all of these types of crisis, there are the wide variety of man-made crisis such as the loss of key employees, criminal acts by or against your company, etc.

You can’t say for sure what’s going to happen. However, what you can do is to take steps to prepare to deal with any crisis when it shows up. This kind of planning always pays off because the one thing that you can say about a crisis is that it will eventually arrive.

How To Avoid A Crisis

Events will happen and there is nothing that you can do to stop them. However, you do have control over whether or not an event turns into a crisis. What determines this is just how prepared you are – do you have a crisis plan?

If you want to be ready the next time a crisis comes knocking at your door, you are going to have to have spent the time planning to deal with it. That means that crisis planning is going to have to become a part of your normal planning process.

If you want to know what kind of crisis you need to be planning for, it can help to talk to as many people as possible. You should start with your team, but then you should talk with people in other departments and possibly even in other companies. What you are looking for is to get their wider view of the world. They may be able to see things that you can’t even think of.

We often think of the big kinds of crisis, but it can be the little internal ones that end up getting us in the end. You need to take the time to critically look at your department and see if you can identify the weaknesses that you have. What one event could bring your department to its knees?

Finally, it’s the outside threats that can be the scariest. These are the big ones that seem to come out of no where. You need to spend some time thinking about what might happen so that you can have a plan to deal with it when it does happen.

What All Of This Means For You

Changes cause crises to occur. Try as you might, no IT manager can predict what type of crises will occur or when it might happen. The best that any of us can do is to plan ahead for how best to avoid the next crises.

In order to avoid a crisis, an IT manager must take the time before the crisis occurs to create a plan – there won’t be any time for creative thinking when a crisis is occurring. Collecting good ideas and identifying what your most probable threats are will allow you to create a good crisis plan.

An IT manager’s job is to provide leadership and direction for your IT team. Just as in a marriage, this includes both the good times and the bad times. In order to be able to avoid crisis, you need to spend the time planning for how you would handle one if (and when) it does occur.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much time each month do you think that you should spend working on your crisis plan?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Unless you have one of those “lucky 8-balls” that we used to have when we were growing which you could shake and it would display a message in its window (“not very likely”), then you probably don’t have a good method for predicting the future. What you need is a plan for what your IT team needs to do when the unthinkable actually happens…

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