ISSN 2330-717X

Crisis Management: The Difference Between Mind Full And Mindful – OpEd

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Though relatively a new field, Disaster Management has expanded and broadened by scientific enquiry and research.  With more focus on effective disaster management being a security imperative tied closely to human security, the efforts to operationally define various terms has attracted attention of social scientists.  Understanding the conceptual, academic and cognitive components of the terms used in the field of disaster management is not only necessary to adopt human based approach for prevention and mitigation, but to also enable the governments to make people based strategies.

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“Crisis”, is one such word or term we often used interchangeably with the word “Disaster” every now and then.  Today’s world is marked with instability due to frequent occurrence of natural disasters such as tornadoes, bush fires, unprecedented floods including outbreak of diseases like Covid-19, that pose a challenge to governments and increase probability of crisis to happen.  With increasing frequency of crisis and disasters the organizations not only have to revamp the existing systems but increase their capability to adapt, and respond to crisis for their survival and repute. Since Crisis management is the system that provides the organization with a coordinated response to crisis situations to boost organization’s ability to continue its daily activities when the crisis is managed successfully.

While disaster is something related to existence of a hazard, vulnerability and probability of masses to be victim of manmade or natural disaster, crisis situation is any event that can lead to a dangerous situation for an individual, group of people, a community, organization or the country as a whole.  For example sudden loss of job would a crisis situation for a single person, while a total collapse of communication system during a disaster would be a crisis situation for a company or organization dealing with disasters.  Major crisis include energy crisis, refugee crisis, post disaster epidemic among affectees of disaster, or security crisis, food crisis, water crisis are sensitive subjects to deal with and attract a fair amount of media attention.  Crisis situation can happen anywhere, it’s a turning point and a dramatic situation that demands immediate decision making, a flawless action plan and effective and persuasive communication.  Since timing to react to a crisis is short, it’s vital that organizations have a plan of action based on research, trained human resource, and a plan to disseminate the actions taken and future strategy to masses effectively.

We need to understand that certain crisis have the potential to expand and if not handled could turn uncontrollable.  With crisis times marked with rumors and intentions to pressurize authorities, facts are shady, rationale is shadowed by emotions and communication is likely to be misinterpreted by the masses organizations under pressure to act.  Above all if crisis are of economic nature or affecting daily life of a mass of people, there is high probability of political exploitation with likelihood of spreading to other communities in the country.  Research indicate that while communication is one of the variables in problem solving and effective crisis management, however, organizations have to adopt multidimensional approach based on different knowledge needs along with different knowledge strategies for different phases and nature of crisis (Wang &Belardo, 2009).

Literature also suggest that multi-dimensional perspective on conceptualizing the crisis management plan comes through combining three core elements, including leadership, learning and knowledge management (Buhagiar, & Anand, 2021).  While leadership provides support and motivation, the knowledge management component provides calculated quick decision making options based on research and lessons learnt, in light of organizational memory.

Literature also emphasize that effective crisis management is result of stronger knowledge base, research and trained human resource within an organization.  Since the tirade for successful crisis management include leadership, knowledge management and learning, it is of utmost importance that organizations dealing with crisis and disaster management introduce a culture of indigenous research, training manuals and a detailed data base of expertise around the country to be immediately engaged in time of crisis as we discussed we have a narrow window to resolve crisis. 

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We have to realize that one of the factors that is considered as a biggest hurdle to crisis preparedness is the management’s denial and absence of crisis culture within our organizations and departments.  There is hardly any organization in Pakistan, unfortunately, where we have a data base of evaluating organizations potential risks, recognizing hazards, opportunities, and strengths of the organization with active situational analysis to make predictive communication plans in case of a crisis.  Efforts to boost comparative international research in the field, learning from others experience and sharing our own knowledge regionally and internationally is the only way forward for effective and with the world for stronger image of the organization.  

What is needed to be understood is that the window to resolve a crisis situation is always very short, and a common question asked in crisis management courses is: “Bamboo tree is tall and sustains strong winds without breaking, why? Answer, because it’s flexible; therefore, flexibility and research based techniques to find out of box solutions are demand of effective crisis management.  May be its high time that to survive in global world where performance depends on modern means of communication, education and knowledge base, we also adopt proactive and ready to be prepared attitudes and behaviors at national level. 

*Shazia Haris, Fellow of APCSS and Clinical Psychologist 

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