25 Crisis Management Questions

Much of the training top executives receive around crisis management is little more than training in crisis communications—only one part of the broader crisis-response picture. Executives should ask themselves the following 25 questions about preparedness.

Understanding threats

  • What are the organization’s top ten risks and, relative to these, what are the top five “black swan” threats that could destabilize the organization?
  • For each black-swan threat, how might the crisis evolve, including second-order effects by stakeholders and assessments of maximum exposure?

Organization and leadership

  • What will the crisis organization look like for each threat (in particular, is there a crisis-response leader with the right temperament, values, experience, and reputation), and when will that organization be activated?
  • What will be your organization’s governing values and guiding principles if any of the black swans hit?
  • Have you defined the blueprint for a central crisis nerve center staffed by top executives, with division of roles?
  • Do you have a crisis governance structure that involves the board, drives decision making, and isolates the rest of the business?
  • Do you have a succession plan in case some of your mission-critical leaders need to step down because of the crisis?

Stakeholder stabilization

  • Have you defined key stakeholders, including competitors and influencers, and tested how they might act in a crisis?
  • Have you invested in understanding and establishing relationships with regulators and government stakeholders?
  • Do you have a plan to protect employees and reduce attrition of your most talented employees?
  • Have you established the portfolio of actions to stabilize stakeholders in the event of each scenario, beyond public relations?

Operational and technical

  • Which critical operations can keep going, and which ones may need to slow or stop?
  • Is there a blueprint for an operational or technical war room staffed with the right team and adequate peer review?
  • Have you defined ways to monitor and reduce cyberthreats, including dark web scans, during a crisis?

Investigation and governance

  • How will you scope an investigation, and what level of transparency might you need to provide?
  • Do you have a set of options for large governance changes you may need to make after a crisis?

Marketing, brand, and communications

  • Have you established a basic communications process, tools, roles, and plan to drive key messages with stakeholders?
  • Have you thought how to protect your brand during the crisis and help it recover afterward?

Financial and liquidity

  • Are there financial protocols to provide crisis funding, protect liquidity, and maintain the business?
  • Have you defined the broad scope of root-cause investigations and how they will be governed?

Legal, third party, and other

  • Does the crisis team have a working knowledge of relevant legal provisions, case law, and protocols?
  • Have you pre-identified battle-tested third parties, such as law firms, crisis communications firms, coordination, and business decision making?
  • Do you have a sense, based on case law, what the overall legal pathways may be to resolve the black-swan event?
  • Have you identified critical suppliers and considered how existing terms and conditions will affect you adversely in a crisis?


  • Have you rehearsed and critiqued all of your biggest crisis scenarios at least once in the past 12 months and implemented improvements to processes or other changes arising from these exercises?

Source: Are You Prepared for a Corporate Crisis? by Sanjay Kalavar, Mihir Mysore | McKinsey Quarterly

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