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Hitting the button: knowing how to identify and escalate issues

With the 24-hour news cycle and social media, the need for organisations to proactively and effectively manage emerging issues has never been more important.

After all, how successfully an organisation navigates the minefield when a crisis or issue hits will determine whether it makes it through with its reputation and business intact.

Developing a framework to identify, manage and escalate issues when and where necessary is therefore critical to a business’ success – and it doesn’t have to be rocket science.

If you think about issues in the context of your everyday life, there are three key steps to effectively managing and mitigating issues.

Step 1:  Identify the potential issues that could arise (For example: your car could break down, you could be late for work, you could forget your lunch, or better yet, forget your wallet).

This initial phase is as broad as it sounds – identify all the potential issues that could arise within your organisation, either from your own doing or from potential external influences. Some recommend recruiting a team of people to work on this process to ensure all potential issues are captured. You only need to make a simple list at this stage.

Step 2:  Prioritise the issues – what is the most pressing and requires immediate attention? (For example: forgetting your lunch falls to the bottom of the list, while car breaking down moves further up the list).

This next phase is a bit more challenging. In order to focus your efforts on those issues that matter the most, a good way to think about this is to rate the issues against the impact they would have on your company’s reputation or financial situation if not addressed. Could they cause potential damage if ignored? This then leads to rating the issues in terms of urgency – which issue requires immediate attention vs which issue could be left until later to address?

Step 3:  Develop an action plan to mitigate or manage the risks if and when they occur (For example: remember to renew your RACQ or equivalent, book your car in for a regular service, put your wallet in your bag the night before, and leave a note on the door to remind you to take your lunch).

The final step in the process is to develop a strategy and appropriate actions to hopefully mitigate or at least manage the issues when they arise. Based on your prioritised list above, map out how you might mitigate and manage each issue. While each action plan is unique, there are four broad actions you might take: ignore, react, participate or initiate. A good way to determine the appropriate response for each issue becomes clear when you map it out on a matrix similar to the below:


(Click image to enlarge.  Courtesy of www.pac.org)

At the end of the day, issues management is about mitigating potential risks and preventing issues from exploding into a serious crisis. Identifying and planning for potential issues may seem like a tedious process, but by putting frameworks and strategies in place you could save your organisation time (you won’t be late for work), money (you won’t have to buy a new car) and prevent potential damage to your brand (you won’t be labelled as the person who can’t plan for the inevitable).