Building strength in issue management is difficult. It’s part discipline, part knowledge and part instinct, and tends to be a skill learned through experience. There’s really no substitute for learning first-hand in the trenches to gain insight on what works, what doesn’t and why.
There is, however, one overarching principle of greatest importance to the beginner and expert alike: namely, to use strategic planning in structuring your response to a problem, risk or crisis. In handling a complex issue, it’s vital that you formulate a strategic rather than a reactive response.
What this means in practice is that you anchor your thinking around clear objectives that are logically connected to targeted outcomes. It’s essential to have a clear picture of what success looks like for managing your issue—and to have this picture be clear not just to you, but to all of your internal stakeholders in common. There’s no point in flying into action if you’re not on the same page in terms of the results you’re trying to achieve.
The naysayers will tell you that in a crisis you can’t afford the time it takes to think strategically; but the reality is, of course, that you can’t afford not to. Even a few minutes or an hour of quality strategic thinking will protect you from the enormous potential risks of responding to an issue in a knee-jerk fashion.
Take-away message: no matter how urgent the issue is, take time to sit down together with internal stakeholders and figure out what your response should aim to achieve. With that vision in hand, you’ll be able to take action where it counts and gets the results you’re looking for.