The most productive individuals are those who master the art of taking care of emergency situations, unexpected and unplanned, that require immediate attention to prevent serious consequences. “Fire fighting” is the usual term for handling a crisis. “Fire
fighting” ranges from such relatively simple problems as soothing an unhappy customer to solving a major emergency production or personnel problem.
When a crisis occurs, minimize lost time by following these suggestions:
• Stay calm. The existence of a crisis implies that something is out of normal control. If, in addition, you lose control of your emotions, it becomes difficult to make rational decisions that meet the needs of the moment. Tell yourself, “I’ve solved
harder problems under pressure. I can solve this one, too.” Your calm, matter-of-fact acceptance of the situation and the assumption that it can be handled keep both you and other people calm and able to bring the situation back under control.
• Isolate the major consideration. When a crisis arises, something will probably be lost as a result of the situation – either time, money, or materials. Decide what loss can be tolerated and what loss must be avoided. Isolate the root problem so you
can immediately respond to the real issue. Your objective is to solve the problem and regain control without a critical loss.
• Return conditions to normal as soon as possible. The objective in crisis management is to take personal charge of the situation for only as long as you are needed. Make the suggestion, take the action, give the instruction, and then step out; let
the person who is normally in charge complete the job. Offer only the necessary help and trust your people to carry through.
• Learn something from each crisis. The handling of each crisis situation should make a direct contribution to future crisis prevention. After the excitement is over and the situation has returned to normal, hold a debriefing session to discuss the crisis with those involved to determine how a similar emergency can be avoided in the future. Make this a training opportunity and a planning experience – not a “place-the blame” session. The more all team members learn about crisis management, the more capable they will be to handle future emergencies and the less you will be required to become involved yourself.