How to create a multi-year strategic plan for Crisis Management

How to create a multi-year strategic plan for Crisis Management based on blue ocean market economics principles? After all, an organization’s crisis management team (CMT) has its own organization as an open market to work out and optimize in terms of crisis management. This requires a strategy, defining projects based on questions about characteristics of the existing CMT or the situation/culture of the organization as-is.  In this contribution, I give my own opinion, not that of any organization
Author: Manu Steens

Approach to strategy

The strategy picture

To create a multi-year strategic plan for Crisis Management you need strategy pictures.

Strategy pictures consist of attributes of their subject and corresponding scores low-mid-high according to the efforts you make for that attribute. This then provides a visual view of the situation as-is and allows one to visually map the desired situation. You can then choose projects according to the changes you want.

Possible features:

Resources: the issue is money and personnel. For example, the resources now are zero.

Cooperation: For example, awareness of the need for crisis management is low. This manifests itself in a reduced level of cooperation. During the discussions for the operationalization of the CMT regarding roles, responsibilities and tasks of the experts, a very high level of awareness occurs among a number of participants.

Training: sandboxes, practical exercises. This could be present, for example, in limited amounts.

Accessibility: High profiles of the CMT should be approachable by those in charge of ICT, buildings, among others.

Chaos of the CMT: In the beginning, the CMT does a lot of ad hoc work.

Difficult terminology: e.g. Terminology of BCM and crisis management is not unambiguous, many acronyms come in that are understood only by experts.

Pride: employees supporting the CMT, e.g., are not proud of that cause, with some exceptions.

Themes: Theme groups should be brought in from the grassroots, not just from the top. This also indicates a lack of commitment.

Collaboration with target groups: e.g. Suppliers, key customers,… this currently happens too little.

Training: theory normally arises from practice, some theoretical knowledge is desirable as a handle on practice; e.g. currently no one is taking specific training.

The CMT scores can then be put on a graph in Excel.

The four-action framework (4AK).


Placing properties in this framework provides the following benefits:

  • It delivers a warning when an organization focuses solely on strengthening and creating, leading to a high cost structure.
  • Easy to understand for all managers of all levels
  • It encourages the organization to scrutinize every aspect on which the CMT scores in the strategy picture and decide what to do with it.

The intention is that the four actions occur. After all, it is not necessary to make all properties as high as possible in terms of score, because this usually does not pay off for the CMT. You should not do what you consider pointless, good is good enough where it is needed, and excelling should be done with things that are absolutely necessary for the operation of the CMT.


A Difficult terminology;C Resources and quantity of personnel;
D Pride;
E Collaboration with target groups;
F Accessibility;
B Chaos of the CMT;G Cooperation;
H Training;
I Themes;
J Training;

Also the To Be scores can then be plotted on a graph in excel.

(To-Be: Low <= 1; 1 < Middle <= 2; High > 2)

Formulate a strategy: ask questions about the properties.

  1. Look at other sectors: what are they doing? (For each of the properties above) This helps find alternatives to existing targets. For example, the pharmaceutical sector works with strict standards.
  2. Look at other strategic groups within industries: what are they doing? (For each of the properties) For example, Johnson and Johnson developed its own standards that are more stringent than those of the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration). It’s about looking at organizations within the same sector or others that follow a similar strategy.
  3. Look at the role of users, influencers,… : what do they do? (for each of the properties) What is the chain of target users? Who is “user” of the CMT, who is influencer of those users? What are their attributes? What added value do you offer them?
  4. Look at other complementary product and service offerings: how can you capitalize on them? What do they do? What can you use them for? How can we add value to each other? Now? And next year? The CMT is not always isolated in its tasks, nor should it be. Look at the other crisis management teams in the sector. Look at home and abroad, their governments and their sectors. Create added value for them. Evolve in this.
  5. Look at other functional or emotional appeals for users: what do they feel they need? What are their preferred features? In that, try to capture the why. This concerns the elaboration of the aspects in the four-action framework (delete, weaken, strengthen create): how do we want / need to deal with our aspects over time. Check whether the aspects answer the users’ emotions and functional needs, and create tasks accordingly.
  6. Look at another time: How will we evolve in 5 to 10 years? Does this framework for action plan the next 5 years sufficiently? Look not only at the value the CMT delivers now but also at the value the CMT can deliver tomorrow.

In addition to these questions, there are other insights that can help work on the properties in the desired direction. These are the factors with disproportionate influence, which you can leverage.

Factors with disproportionate influence

  1. Clear the cognitive hurdle. Get the hierarchy to face the harsh reality. See first and then believe. Positive incentives reinforce behavior and negative incentives change attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Clear the hurdle of limited resources. Make use of hot spots, cold spots and barter. Hot spots involve activities where you deploy few resources with high returns. Cold spots involve activities where you deploy many resources with low returns. Barter involves exchanging the surplus people and resources of department A for those of department B.
  3. Overcoming the motivation hurdle. If you want everyone to get behind the strategy, you have to make sure people see what they have to do, but also consistently and meaningfully act on that understanding. To do this, focus on key people, visibility and atomization. (Key figures are people who have a lot of influence.) (Visibility means putting people in the spotlight.) (Atomization means achieving everyone’s idea that the strategy is achievable by breaking it down into small steps.)
  4. Overcoming the political hurdle. There are always powerful interests. Therefore, enlist the help of angels, silence devils, and secure confidants in politics and cabinets. (Angels are people who have much to gain. Devils are people who have much to lose. A confidant should be a negotiation-savvy, highly respected insider who knows where all the landmines are).

An expectation management.

Good expectation management (at the level of strategy formulation) leads to trust and commitment (at the level of attitude). That leads to voluntary cooperation (in terms of behavior). Which leads to exceeding expectations (in terms of strategy execution).

The three principles of expectation management.

These are commitment, explanation and clarity of expectations.

Engagement: ask the target audience of the strategy in the organization for input when it comes to something that concerns them. Respect ideas and let them critically review everything from their arguments themselves.

Explanation: make sure you not just tell them that there are changes, tell them why the organization chooses a particular strategy.

Clarity in expectations: formulate and communicate the new rules well. Provide KPIs to measure people and organizations against. So provide benchmarks. Talk about strategy goals and milestones to get there.

The result

To create a multi-year strategic plan for Crisis Management, in addition to this strategy-plate-property thinking, you must check off projects against the CMT’s strategic objectives.

Then one can list the projects in a table, as in an example below

Action/Projectyyyyyyyy+1yyyy+2Strat. Target.Edited Eig.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields.

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