In a Crisis - Is It a Reaction or a Plan?

What is the difference between a plan and a reaction? A reaction is an action taken because of another action. A plan is the setting of goals, acting to reach those goals, evaluating the action, and revising the goals. In a crisis, a plan with a dynamic format can be revised, while a reaction will be an extraordinary action done without structure and preparation.

The ball in a pinball machine reacts. The ball on the pinball game table bounces off bumpers and is propelled by flippers. The path of the ball is not foreseeable, except that ultimately the ball will fall down and off the table.

When actions are taken with a goal in mind, there is an intended direction, a monitoring of that direction, and a revision of the goal because it was achieved or not achieved.

In a crisis, are you reacting to the events of the crisis, or are you amending a plan based on the experience of the crisis events? If you are amending a plan, you are in much better shape than if you are reacting to crisis events.

To make a plan, you must make a series of decisions, and, if you are doing it correctly, these decisions are made through a decision-making process involving an informed and independent group including those who will be affected by the decision. Planning essentially done by one person is better than no planning at all, but the best practice is to make planning decisions by consulting a group including those that will be affected by the decision. That the opinions and knowledge of a group is considered does not change the authority or responsibility of the person charged with making the decision. Establishing and invoking a group decision-making process making decisions maintaining continual planning yields better decisions. Practice does produce better results. With the decision-making process established, when a contingent event occurs (probable or not) the revision of the plan – the changing of a goal and the actions to achieve it – will be better thought out and be more oriented to the ideal path for the business.

When a significant unanticipated event occurs (a crisis), if there is no decision-making process, the reactive decision made as an extraordinary measure will be more likely to be based on one person’s opinion which will not consider the entire range of consequences associated with that decision.

If the planning for the business has a dynamic format, that is if the goals of the plan are known to those acting to accomplish the goals and there are mileposts and metrics to measure the progress, then when the experience of crisis events demonstrates the need to revise goals, actions to be taken will be revised immediately after the goals are revised and the plan as revised continues.

If you recognize that you are without planning and reacting in a crisis, focus on creating the decision planning group. This is a time when owners can articulate their values with respect to the business, set new goals, begin actions to reach those goals, and revise the goals as is appropriate. Implement planning rather than simply reacting and hoping for something to happen. Hope is not a plan. When you react to a crisis, resolve that the next time you will be revising a plan.