In a public emergency situation, the responders will quickly assemble into the Incident Command Structure (ICS) in which their roles and responsibilities are clearly defined (and regularly practiced).   In the corporate environment, the crisis team doesn’t necessarily fit into this same structure.  

One of the solutions we’ve identified and implemented is to name a person (and a backup) to be a “Crisis Coordinator” (CC).  The primary role of the CC is to assist the crisis team lead with preparing for, and responding to a crisis event (such as the ICS Planning team would be responsible for).       I developed a list of the desired skills, knowledge and experience, and asked the country and regional crisis leads (eg:  Vice Presidents and General Managers) to identify someone who met this criteria.   Because this role doesn’t require functional knowledge  (eg: Finance) we have CC’s  from many functions including Procurement, Marketing, Information Technology and Global Corporate Security.    The individuals in this role have embraced it, and engaged in developing their skills and participating in regular forums. 

In advance of a crisis event, the CC develops and maintains a crisis team roster (with backups!) and a stakeholder register.    They also work with the lead to conduct regular horizon scanning sessions to ensure that they are aware of, and managing their most critical business risks.   When a new team member joins, the CC conducts an onboarding session with them so they are ready when the next crisis occurs.

And when it happens, the CC organizes the logistics for the team.   They organize the meeting (where, when, who), meeting room, and materials.    They lead development of the Incident Action Plan (IAP), and assist with the briefing cycles.   Documentation is key to keeping the team organized, and providing accurate updates to management and employees.   The CC is the expert on the tools to help keep the team organized and running efficiently. 

And when the dust settles, they lead the team through a Lessons (To Be) Learned session.   These lessons are then discussed at the next Crisis Coordinator forum to help other teams improve.   The tools and resources may also be revised based on the team’s learnings from the event.

The Crisis Coordinator role has become a great asset to the organization and provided opportunities for senior management to see these future leaders operate in a high stress and critical role.