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Crisis management: How to manage an IT crisis without losing your head

March 31, 2017

Crisis management: How to manage an IT crisis without losing your head

This post is also available in: Spanish

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When ideas, products, services and capital come together, something wonderful happens; a business is born. But no-one can predict that business’s future: how it’s going to grow, if it’s going to grow, how the investors will react to future events, etc. All through the life of a business different kinds of intelligence will come into play: when you have to deal with a crisis is when you need to employ various kinds of intelligence simultaneously. Crises provoke extreme reactions, and the person, team, company who can keep their cool is always going to be better at crisis management than those who give in to panic.

5 keys to help you manage an IT crisis:

1. Acknowledge the situation, accept responsibility and apologize
The three As: Acknowledge, Accept, Apologize. These go a long way to restoring confidence in your brand, or product or service. They represent a good deployment of emotional intelligence. You’ve established a relationship of trust with your client or customer and now is the time to withdraw some of those emotional funds you have on deposit. Honesty is key.

To take a recent example, in March 2017, Amazon’s Web Service provision was disrupted by a typo in a command line. Amazon didn’t delay in acknowledging the cause of the problem, or in accepting responsibility and apologizing. The emotional effect is to generate sympathy and even to bring customers closer to the brand. Who’s never slipped up, we ask ourselves. If Amazon can admit they made an error, so can you.

2. Explain your fix in layperson’s terms
After acknowledging that there is a problem, communication remains paramount. None of your customers should be out of the loop; keep everyone informed, explain that a fix is being worked on, and keep your language non-technical (if it’s a technical problem you’re dealing with). Not everyone in your organization is an engineer, and blinding people with jargon can seem very close to being evasive. Again, emotional intelligence is as valuable in this case as technical know-how. If possible, give your customers pointers on how they can continue working even if the network, for example, is down. An IT crisis isn’t an automatic pass to be non-productive. Those pencils and notepads don’t rely on software updates.

3. Facts are your friends
If it’s a serious issue you’re dealing with, don’t beat around the bush. In the case of Amazon, they acknowledged the reality of the situation, without pointing fingers or naming names. They explained the situation and followed the steps already touched upon.

4. Communication
We already saw the three As. This one we might sum up as the three Cs: Communication, Communication, Communication. The objective behind all these steps is to regain trust and good communication is a sign of trust. Peter Drucker, the business philosopher, affirmed that 60% of all management problems are due to bad communication. A constant back and forth, fluid communication, are a watchword for success. They might not guarantee it, but they provide useful feedback on both the good and the bad, what’s working and what’s not.

Keep it simple, and honest, as noted, and free of technical language.

5. Regain trust
The work doesn’t finish when the crisis is solved. Whether within your organization or your clients’ people may be worried that the situation could repeat itself. This requires more of the steps we’ve already seen, especially communication.

Finally, don’t forget to thank your team. It may seem obvious but when is a better time for a pat on the back, and the acknowledgement of a job well done than when a crisis is averted


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    3 comments
    1. Touches base. Great information. Thank you.

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