If a corporate crisis is involved the need for best decisions is even more critical — there is no room for trial and error.
Crisis management is a special case need for consultation with an outside ethics expert. Whatever you call the management team solving the problem — crisis management, crisis team, crisis committee — an outside ethicist adds value to your management team’s decisions.
Pragmatic business ethics advice helps to contain and mitigate corporate crisis. When sticky situations arise – don’t try to tough them out alone, and don’t try to solve them without bringing an outside viewpoint to the conference table. An outside ethicist adds value to your management team’s decisions. Pragmatic ethics advice during a crisis,
Outside corporate ethics consultants add value to crisis-mode executive discussions and governance. When your executive management team is in crisis mode, consider —
- A confidential, outside, corporate ethics consultant can see you as outsiders see you. Consultants identify the relevant facts and value assumptions as they are viewed both by the parties inside the company, and, importantly, also by the parties outside the corporation. A person outside the problem often sees lack of compliance, governance problems, business culture facts or management / employee value assumptions that are otherwise overlooked.
- A confidential, outside, corporate ethics consultant can say things that committee members don’t want to say. Outside consultancy provides a way to have a voice that is not fearful of being destructive of a relationship within the company. The plain fact is that everyone in the “clubhouse” of the firm is fearful of voicing an opinion or recommendation that seems like a criticism of someone with whom they work. The outside consultant can skillfully bring those unspoken thoughts out quietly, then voice the idea himself as an objective voice seeking to “build up” the company, not as someone trying to “tear down” an executive.
- A confidential, outside, corporate ethics consultant can move a business committee better, faster, than only having an executive of the company lead the discussion. You tend to get better options on the table, and make decisions that can be justified to the outside world. The outside corporate ethics consultant moves your discussion of corporate governance and public relations options forward and upward. Discussion which involves ethical dimensions usually needs a wise counselor to keep the discussion from bogging down on one or two items, and to suggest ideas, problems, and values that have not been raised in the discussion by the executives.
- A confidential, outside, corporate ethics consultant is internal management emotional insurance and outside public relations insurance. When a decision among ethical choices is made by executives, it is comforting to know that it has been looked at by someone whose job it is to know ethics principles. Then – when the decision is imparted to those affected internally and to the wider community or government authority that needs to know the result – it is helpful to have the backing of experienced ethics counsel. Experienced ethics consultants can help frame the announcements to the parties involved and to the public. In fact, an ethics expert may be your best PR friend. He/she can bring an outside viewpoint to the crisis discussions, and can point out ethical aspects that helps your crises management be respected by the public and government regulators.
There are two categories of crisis management
Reactive crisis management is management responding to an event that massively threatens the operations or success of the business. Crisis management in the face of a current, real crisis includes identifying the real nature of a current crisis, intervening to minimize damage and recovering from the crisis. Crisis management often includes a strong focus on public relations to prevent, or recover from, damage to public image. Crisis management must assure all stakeholders (employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, government) that recovery is moving the company back to a position of leadership in the industry.
Computer, legal, and government agency specific experts are the usual outside consultants that come to mind in many situations. There is another type of outside expert that frequently will add value to your management team’s decisions— a business ethics consultant. Most people think they know the “right” thing to do. The problem is that everyone else thinks they know the “right” thing to do, and everyone does not always agree. An ethics expert may be your best PR friend if he/she can bring an outside viewpoint to the crisis discussions, and can point out an ethical aspect that helps your management be one the public respects. Therefore, you should identify an outside ethics expert that you can call on 24/7 to join the crisis response discussions.
Proactive crisis management is forecasting potential crises and planning how to deal with them. Potential crisis that may be forecast can run from a hacker entering your computer and stealing sensitive corporate or customer information, to customer deaths caused by your product. Proactive crisis management takes the time to complete a crisis management plan before the company experiences a crisis. The plan includes, among other things, identifying the management personnel and outside consultants that need to meet immediately as your crisis response team.
Guidance by an outside ethics counselor often is helpful to solving your crisis problems, because:
- Training in ethics helps identify the relevant facts as they are viewed by the parties outside the corporation.
- A person outside the problem often sees facts that are otherwise overlooked.
- Discussion which involves ethical dimensions usually needs a wise counselor to keep the discussion from bogging down on one or two items.
- When the decision is made, it is comforting to know that it has been looked at by someone whose job it is to know ethics principles.
- When the decision is imparted to those affected and to the wider community that needs to know the result, then it is helpful to have the backing of experienced ethics counsel, who may even help frame the announcements to the parties involved and to the public.
Whether the corporate crisis arises from external or internal forces, solving the company’s immediate problem of survival is the start of corporate repair. That repair has to be as immediate as the problem is immediate.
If you are having an internal corporate investigation, or an external governmental investigation, you probably should have an independent ethics consultant working with your legal counsel. It is good sense to help you stay out of more trouble during the investigation and its aftermath. Besides, it is good public relations and is good government relations. Point with pride to your proactive stance on ethics. The outside ethics consultant demonstrates you are not trying to draw a protective shell over what the public is likely to visualize as a moral mess. Moreover the outside ethics consultant will draw ethics considerations to your attention which will probably become important to your message to the government and the public.
Depending on circumstances, a committee may use Business Process Pragmatism (BPP) as the main method of ethics decision during a corporate crisis setting. BPP involves:
- assessment of facts, with
- ethical analysis of relevant moral considerations to lead to a consensus formulation of an acceptable plan of action, with a by-product of
- formulation of the public explanation or rationalization of the corporation’s future action steps.
In short, Business Process Pragmatism is a method of uncovering and articulating the right thing to do in a corporate crisis.