Crisis and Chaos…

Survive and thrive or struggle and perish. What say you crystal ball? Only if it were that easy. Unfortunately, we are more likely to get answers from a Magic 8 Ball than a crystal ball, or at least that’s my opinion.

Early in my Marine Corps career, I spent several years with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Throughout my time in service many things changed, mostly because of 9/11, but there were other factors as well. Regardless of the scale, environment or situation, the operations we conducted were typically rooted in the Marine Corps Planning Process (MCPP).

MCPP was designed to enable organizational staffs the ability to analyze a situation or directive and formulate strategies that would support a commander’s decision-making process. Comprised of problem framing, course of action (COA) development, COA wargaming, COA comparison and decision, orders development, and transition, MCPP was often a lengthy process. Fortunately, it had an abbreviated version to accelerate the timeline during Crisis Action Planning. This version was called the Rapid Response Planning Process (R2P2). R2P2 allowed units such as the MEU to quickly synchronize and achieve rehearsal of their planned response(s) within six hours of receipt of warning or execution order. This issue of C2C is not intended to delve into Marine Corps Warfighting doctrine, but it is intended to draw parallel between those military actions and the organizational challenges we most certainly face.


 2020, what a year. Whether we’re talking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle “stepping back” from duties as members of the British royal family, or the ongoing fallout from COVID-19, no one could have predicted the roller coaster ride we’ve experienced. Well, maybe Doc Brown could have. Twists, turns, flips and flops. There were successes and failures, losses and gains. Products such as disposable gloves and bread machines became a premium, while luggage and briefcases almost became obsolete. How could an organization survive during such uncertainty? Diversify, adapt, and pivot? Yes, but only to a degree. For organizations that embraced reality and quickly moved into effective crisis action planning, we find success.

 How does an organization quickly transition into crisis action planning? First and foremost, it requires both leaders and managers. If you’re not sure, there is a difference. While the process can benefit from military precision, it can also be hindered if conducted in an autocratic manner. Leaders should ensure that key members of the team are identified, informed, and prepared prior to any given crisis. Once accomplished, managers should meet periodically to practice the process through the development of generic scenarios from previous known crises. For example, most events can be aligned to five categories:

  1. Financial
  2. Personnel
  3. Organizational
  4. Technological
  5. Natural

Ok, now what? 

COVID-19 brought new meaning to the term natural crisis. Brick and mortar operations ceased for non-essential activities, employees who never worked from home found themselves setting up remote offices and trying to balance work/home activities. Digital access surged and organizational network security was tested.  Resources such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype and others became part of everyday activities, and the list goes on. In most cases a crisis not properly addressed will result in additional, and often more complicated crises. Ultimately it is impossible to plan for everything; however, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. ~Benjamin



MCPP is a military tool; however, it’s structure can be modified. R2P2 is an example, and the process can be further revised to support non-military organizations and activities. Frequently I tell transitioning service members, it’s not what you did in uniform but rather how you translate it that matters. Crisis action planning is no different. Find the method that best supports your organization and initiative, then shape it and make it your own.

So what?

So what does all this mean to me? Ask yourself; how did my organization fare this year? Did COVID-19 or any other crisis have an impact? What was the extent of the impact? Did we have a disaster response or crisis action plan? Was the plan communicated and key personnel informed/trained? What could have been different if the plan was better prepared, distributed, updated? The questions can go on, but even if your company had a crisis action plan, there’s always room for improvement.

Take advantage of every situation, there are valuable lessons to be learned. 2020 has been a unique year, and it’s far from over. None of us can hop in our DeLorean and zip through time, so having a plan only stands to benefit you and your organization.