Building crisis resilience by learning from experience

June 17, 2019 by Jenny Payne


Learning from incidents is a crucial – yet often overlooked – element of crisis management 

A crisis hits an organisation: its crisis management team assembles, the plan is activated and (hopefully), after a period of time, the crisis abates. After enduring the toughest days of their corporate lives, it’s tempting for the leadership team to breathe a huge sigh of relief that the crisis is over and move on.

This is one of the biggest crisis management mistakes an organisation can make. Reflecting on the causes of a crisis and the effectiveness of the response can identify areas for improvement, which is essential for ensuring that the organisation is as well-prepared for any future crisis as it can possibly be.

Conduct thorough post-crisis reviews

Organisations facing a crisis naturally attract stakeholder attention and can remain in the spotlight for some time. Enduring a media storm for one major incident is tough, but scrutiny is significantly more intense when companies experience a series of crisis events. The Brazilian mining company Vale found this out the hard way following the breach of its Brumadinho dam earlier this year. Stakeholders have been much less forgiving of Vale because another one of its dams collapsed in similar fashion only three years prior to the Brumadinho incident. 

Dedicating time to post-crisis reviews enables organisations to delve deep into the reasons why the crisis occurred and their response to it. Without undertaking this process, the cause of the crisis may never be identified (let alone fixed), leaving a company exposed to further incidents and more prolonged reputational damage.

For the post-crisis review to be effective, it must be a safe environment which allows for open and constructive discussion. Those involved in the post-crisis review must feel empowered to talk honestly about what contributed to the crisis without fear of being blamed. Only then can real improvements be made.

Don’t let ‘near misses’ pass you by

If your business has narrowly escaped being at the centre of the next media storm, don’t treat this as a lucky escape. As with full-blown crises, ‘near misses’ should be used as an opportunity to explore why the incident happened and assess what needs to be done to prevent it from occurring again. Valuable learnings can inform crisis management planning, making your organisation more crisis resilient.

Use other organisations’ crises as a learning opportunity 

Crises faced by others can also provide valuable learnings, particularly when that crisis affects the same sector as your organisation. Airlines and airplane manufacturers around the world, for instance, have undoubtedly analysed the Boeing 737 MAX crisis to try and avoid a repeat of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies.

Spending time with your leadership team assessing how your organisation would have responded to an incident and the measures that can be taken to avoid the same happening to you can highlight learnings you may not have recognised from your own incidents.

Organisations that are self-aware and spend time learning from experience to identify vulnerabilities are intrinsically more crisis resilient. To see how prepared your business is to respond to a crisis, take Insignia’s crisis readiness test.


Jenny Payne


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Winner of Consultancy of the Year at CIR Business Continuity Awards 2023

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Finalists for Specialist Consultancy of the Year at CIR Business Continuity Awards 2020 & 2023

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Finalists in 2023 Great British Entrepreneur Awards: Service Industries category

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Winner Specialist Business Book of the Year 2021 at The Business Book Awards (Crisis Proof)

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Finalists in the Lloyds Bank British Business Excellence Awards 2021: Purpose Before Profit category

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Finalists in the Business Champion Awards 2021: Champions in a Crisis category

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Finalists for Business Advisor of the Year at the 2021 Growing Business Awards

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Shortlisted for BCI Europe Awards 2023: Continuity and Resilience Consultant category