Read this section to understand the process a business would use to develop and implement a strategic plan.
Plan for Contingencies and Crises
Even with great planning, things don't always turn out the way they're supposed to. Perhaps your plans were flawed, or maybe you had great plans but something in the environment shifted unexpectedly. Successful managers anticipate and plan for the unexpected. Dealing with uncertainty requires contingency planning and crisis management.
With contingency planning, managers identify those aspects of the business that are most likely to be adversely affected by change. Then, they develop alternative courses of action in case an anticipated change does occur. You probably do your own contingency planning: for example, if you're planning to take in a sure-fire hit movie on its release date, you may decide on an alternative movie in case you can't get tickets to your first choice.
Organizations also face the risk of encountering crises that require immediate attention. Rather than waiting until such a crisis occurs and then scrambling to figure out what to do, many firms practice crisis management. Some, for instance, set up teams trained to deal with emergencies. Members gather information quickly and respond to the crisis while everyone else carries out his or her normal duties. The team also keeps the public, the employees, the press, and government officials informed about the situation and the company's response to it.
An example of how to handle crisis management involves Wendy's. After learning that a woman claimed she found a fingertip in a bowl of chili she bought at a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose, California, the company's public relations team responded quickly. Within a few days, the company announced that the finger didn't come from an employee or a supplier. Soon after, the police arrested the woman and charged her with attempted grand larceny for lying about how the finger got in her bowl of chili and trying to extort $2.5 million from the company. But the crisis wasn't over for Wendy's. The incident was plastered all over the news as a grossed-out public sought an answer to the question, "Whose finger is (or was) it?" A $100,000 reward was offered by Wendy's to anyone with information that would help the police answer this question. The challenge Wendy's faced was how to entice customers to return to its fifty San Francisco–area restaurants (where sales had plummeted) while keeping a low profile nationally. It accomplished this by giving out free milkshakes and discount coupons to customers in the affected regions and, to avoid calling attention to the missing finger, by making no changes in its national advertising. The crisis-management strategy worked and the story died down (though it flared up temporarily when the police arrested the woman's husband, who allegedly bought the finger from a coworker who had severed it in an accident months earlier).
The response to the BP oil spill by its former CEO, Tony Hayward, is an example of poor crisis management.
Even with crisis-management plans in place, however, it's unlikely that most companies will emerge from a damaging or potentially damaging episode as unscathed as Wendy's did. For one thing, the culprits in the Wendy's case were caught, and the public is willing to forgive an organization it views as a victim. Given the current public distrust of corporate behavior, however, companies whose reputations have suffered due to questionable corporate judgment don't fare as well. These companies include the international oil company, BP, whose CEO, Tony Hayward, did a disastrous job handling the crisis created when a BP controlled oil rig exploded in the Gulf Coast killing eleven workers and creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Hayward's lack of sensitivity will be remembered forever; particularly his response to a reporter's question on what he would tell those whose livelihoods were ruined: "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back". His comment was obviously upsetting to the families of the eleven men who lost their lives on the rig and had no way to get their lives back".
Then, there are the companies at which executives have crossed the line
between the unethical to the downright illegal – Arthur Andersen, Enron,
and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, to name just a few. Given
the high risk associated with a crisis, it should come as no surprise
that contemporary managers spend more time anticipating crises and
practicing their crisis-management responses.