Book Reviews

 
Crisis Management

Why Some Companies Emerge Stronger and Better from a Crisis…7 Essential Lessons for Surviving Disaster

Author: Ian I. Mitroff
Publisher AMACOM
Publication Date: March 2005

Reviewer:G.A. (Andy) Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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As recently as five years ago business disasters were relatively mild – a fire, flood, hurricane or other natural catastrophe along with a periodic product recall, wiped out enterprise database or case of a little embezzling.    All of the books written on the subject of business and continuity management during that time usually dealt with subjects only of interest to financial and IT specialists. Certainly not a mainstream subject for people responsible for developing and maintaining a company’s and its products image and reputation.

But that was then. This is now. Today the abnormal is normal. 

Cyber attacks, phishing, identity theft are commonplace and rarely receive more than a passing mention in the press. Enron, Anderson, Tyco and similar corporate scandals have numbed us to periodic accounting “irregularities” and “adjustments.” Violence against companies and individuals has become devastating but “normal.”

Despite these business “facts of life,” organizations continue to be remarkably unprepared to recognize, deal with and manage crises. 
 
Rather than using the old-fashioned life insurance ploy of years since past and trying to scare firms into proper preparation and action, Dr. Mitroff takes a refreshing approach to crisis management – he looks closely at what firms have done to survive disasters of all types. Drawing on case studies he has developed in recent years while teaching at the USC business school, he analyzes the issues and spells out what other organizations have done to not only survive but emerge from the crisis even stronger than before. Often called the father of crisis management, he spells out how companies can recognize the early warning signals, avoid being a victim or villain when a crisis erupts and the importance of personal character, corporate culture and creative, pro-active thinking.

We personally felt the cover title left a lot to be desired since the heart and meat of the book is really found in the subhead – 7 Essential Lessons for Surviving Disaster.

This sums up the value of the book for anyone in communications. Dr. Mitroff has synthesized all of the drudgery of crisis management planning, preparation, practice and execution into four categories of critical IQs:

  • Emotional IQ – understand the psychological impacts of crisis before they occur
  • Creative IQ – raise thorny issues and push the problem-solving envelope
  • Technical IQ – dare to think like a sociopath without becoming a raging paranoid
  • Integrative IQ – embrace fuzziness and make peace with uncertainty
Not unlike Red Adair of oilfield fire fame, Dr. Mitroff has spent his career thoughtfully and thoroughly examining crises of all types.   The result of his research and work is clearly spelled out in his seven IQs based on scores of interviews conducted following real-world crisis examples. 

The value of reading, understanding and putting into practice the author’s 7 Essential Lessons will help companies and communications people come to grips with the unexpected before it occurs and know how to deal with the crisis in a thoughtful and logical manner rather than being paralyzed into inaction. 

As only an intensive researcher can do, Dr. Mitroff has studied and analyzed crisis from the inside out. He has isolated and set down what are in his opinion the best examples of how organizations and individuals have overcome the crisis. 

As the author notes, the book is a benchmark for firms and especially communications experts. You could call it the gold standard of crisis management because the book spells out what your organization and you should ideally do. But Dr. Mitroff is also realistic and knows that no organization or no individual can do everything 100% right when a crisis occurs.

But at least by reading, analyzing, digesting and gaining an in-depth understanding of his seven critical IQs, dealing with the unexpected can be less terrifying. More importantly, going through a crisis and surviving can be done with greater assurance and confidence.