In crisis lightning can and does strike twice!



Back in May 2014, the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) had a major fire that caused extensive damage to the collections, the work of artists and the building itself.  I use the social media response by the GSA to the situation as an excellent case study of how effective social media can be in keeping key stakeholders and the wider community informed.

Sadly, disaster has struck again at the GSA and once again the building and its contents have been devastated by a major fire – lightning has struck again.

 Often organisations will deal with a particular incident and take the view that having come through their crisis think;

(a)  “We did ok, so that’s alright then, we don’t need to change anything” and

(b)   That the chances of it happening again are minimal

This mind-set is a recipe for disaster.  It is vital that review and learning lessons from any incident takes place in a meaningful way. Organisations must challenge themselves and as a part of the follow up to an incident ask hard questions of themselves.  What can we do better?  What were we lucky to get away with? How might it have been worse?

I work alongside a number of organisations in high risk industries. They will say that safety is integral to their culture but they also recognise that only works if everyone lives and breathes safety. Reporting of near misses is a challenging area for them because no-one wants to admit they made a mistake or highlight the unsafe practice or inappropriate behaviour of a colleague.  Yet the learning that comes from near misses is hugely important and prevention is far better than cure as far as incidents go. Organisations must take every opportunity to learn and improve if they are to create a safe working environment, protecting their people and their public reputation.

We regularly hear a senior spokesperson following a crisis saying that an organisation “will learn lessons from this.”  I believe that is exactly the right thing to be heard saying, but the sentiment has to be backed up with meaningful action.  Make sure if your organisation has a crisis that you do learn lessons!

The court of public opinion, never mind the media or your insurers, will be very unforgiving (and rightly so) if you make the same mistakes twice. Your stakeholders will lose confidence and trust in you if you are perceived to have allowed lightning to strike twice.

 

“Once is unfortunate, twice is careless!”


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