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IT TAKES A CRISIS
IT TAKES A CRISIS
The past few months I have been struck by the scale, ferocity and number of crises in the news. The financial/bank/bailout debacle, Toyota putting profits before safety, BP allowing technology to speed ahead of responsibility and the government acquiescing, terrorism again surfacing on our shores, Greece's difficulties coursing through Europe threatening the viability of the Euro, and scores of people dying weekly in the Mexican drug wars. Each of these, in retrospect, did not have to happen. But each did.
No one can anticipate every possible scenario. Nor can we, as leaders, spend an inordinate amount of time planning for catastrophes that stand a very remote chance of ever happening. However, when responsible behavior is sacrificed in the interest of a short-term victory, a crisis often follows. It is up to the leader to make sure this never happens. It isn't easy.
One rarely gets credit for preventing a crisis. Toyota would probably not have been praised for solving the acceleration problem early on. However, they may well have been criticized if the fix had impacted near-term profits. Now no amount of money will be spared to solve the problem. Plus the cost of the fix has increased dramatically due to the horrible publicity. Adhering to certain core beliefs is vital to the long-term viability of any organization.
Leaders are applauded when they show profits. So often, as long as the company is profitable, few questions are asked. This can encourage irresponsible behavior by the weak leader. The slippery slope of a short-term focus has undone many a leader. It takes strength to do the right thing, not the most expedient.
It shouldn't take a crisis to prod an organization into doing the responsible thing. Too often it does. Many people knew that a deep drilling disaster was in the offing. Many people knew Toyota was making unsafe cars. Many people at Ft. Hood knew an unstable individual was in their midst. Many people knew Greece was a house of cards and that a common currency only exacerbated the problem. Drugs have been a problem in Mexico for many years but the corrupt government chose to turn a blind eye until it was too late. People in all of these situations knew there was a problem but no one spoke up or chose not to address it because of individual weakness or a contaminated culture. The potential crisis only gets bigger the longer it gestates. The world has a habit of finding equilibrium. The more out of balance something becomes the greater the correction.
A crisis can wipe away in one day all the goodwill a given company has built over many years. It is incumbent on all leaders to act responsibly, anticipate, confront, and see the unseen so that a crisis situation is avoided. There are no guarantees that these efforts will be successful but the chance for success improves dramatically when the leader abides by this mindset.