5 Keys to Crisis Management- Send In The Wolf!

When people ask me what I actually do for a living, I sometimes ask them if they remember “The Cleaner” from the movie Pulp Fiction.  In the movie, there is a bloody murder that occurs in a car and they call a guy called “The Wolf” (Harvey Keitel) who shows up in a tuxedo and his specialty is to make the crime scene disappear.  When I say “The Cleaner” most folks immediately remember him and chuckle a bit about the comparison, however, it’s really not that far off in many ways.


My job invariably includes problem solving and crisis management.  In most cases, the damage (the murder) has already occurred.  I can’t stop it from happening.  My job is to figure a way out that will result in the least amount of collateral damage.  In the construction business bad things can happen even to the most organized and professional companies.  Subcontractors will walk away from their obligations.  Owners will ignore contract responsibilities.  Misappropriation of payments.   We have theft, damage, lying, cheating, injuries, and corruption.  I have seen some truly amazing things happen.  Instances  where you say to yourself- “there is no way that they would do that!”   And then it happens!  Desperate people will do very foolish things.  And the legal system is largely useless.  We protect ourselves as best as we can with solid processes and early warning systems but they are not flawless.  We have chinks in our armor.  So bad things will happen.  It’s inevitable.

What do you do when you encounter a crisis situation?  We can get a few clues from the Wolf:

Stay Calm:  The Wolf shows up in tuxedo and calmly reviews the situation and then asks Jimmy for a cup of coffee.  He doesn’t get rattled.  He is calm and confident.  Remember that your disposition will rub off on others.  If you get angry or start throwing around blame the folks you need most to help you will likely check out.  You need to keep them engaged to find your way out.  You need them to have a cool head and to be able to think clearly.  Stay calm and confident.

Call an Expert:  When the Wolf comes to the door he says, “I solve problems”.  They called the Wolf because he is the best.  He’s been in the situation before.  He’s experienced.  The Wolf accesses the situation and immediately starts to give instructions on how to clean up the mess.  There is no hesitancy or reluctance to act.  He doesn’t need to think.  He’s been there before.  This is the kind of direction that you need when you are in a tough situation.

Get the Facts:  When the Wolf arrives he immediately begins to get the facts.  He asks a series of questions.  With the responses, he puts together a timeline on when things needs to happen.  He views the conditions and formulates a plan to clean and dispose of the car using what he has available.

Be Specific: When the Wolf gives direction he is specific.  He tells Jules (Samuel Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) exactly what to do.  He tells them what areas to concentrate on and what is wasted time.  Once he has given the instructions, there is no need for questions- just action.  They have their marching orders.  They know what to do.

Time is Critical:  The Wolf keeps things moving quickly and efficiently.  He knows that time is not on your side.  The quicker you start fixing the problem, the better.  Don’t put your head in the sand.  It will not go away all by itself.

Crisis management is part of leading any team.  Bad things are going to happen.  You must control your emotions, keep a clear head, assess the situation, get help, and move immediately to fix the conditions.  Your team is looking for your help, not your criticism.  There will be plenty of time for that later.  For now, move quickly and efficiently and get the situation under control.  A crisis is like a forest fire.  If you don’t get it under control quickly and completely it will spiral out of control.  Be like the Wolf.  Be a problem solver!

So what do you think?  Are there some other keys to crisis management that I have missed?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

5 Ways That Processes Protect You from Losing!

Years ago, I coached boys and girls middle school basketball.  We would run structured offenses and defenses and set plays that we practiced for hours over and over again.  Girls, for the most part, ran the offenses with surgical precision.  Boys, on the other hand, typically were sloppier.   It took time for me to get “buy in” from them- to see that the plays really worked and the power in following the rules of the offense.  See, most of the boys felt they were already basketball stars, so when they had an open shot, they took it.  Three point line, even further!  We worked hard to get them to make the extra pass and get the lay-up or easy inside shot instead of taking the long shot from the outside hoping that it goes in.

Basketball Hoop

I remember calling for time out during the games when the boys would get out of the offense over and over again.  I would tell them if they continued to freelance outside of the offense and play “streetball” that I could not help them win the game.  They were on their own.  I couldn’t tell what the defense was doing or how to attack the other team’s weakness when they were out of the order of the offense.  They might win or they might not.  The only thing I knew was that I couldn’t help them. 

I became a spectator, instead of a coach.

Anything could happen and all I could do is watch.

The same is true with business processes.  As you may have guessed, I am a big believer in solid business processes.  Following a structured process will keep you out of trouble and give you dependable results.  In the construction business, we follow strict processes in most areas.  We have written processes and procedures to guide our projects and what we do as a company.  Processes provide the following advantages and protections:

Filters out Most Common Pitfalls:  A good set of processes and procedures will help to avoid most common problems and issues.  The design of the process forces you to think through the needed steps and formulate a plan that addresses all of the common problems.

Plug and Play:  Solid processes allow you to easily switch up personnel.  If all of your work is accomplished in the same manner, you can move personnel from one project to another and they can pick up the work without loosing a beat.  You can use your bench!

You Can Watch The Weak Areas:  Strong processes will identify areas of weakness where you need to place your focus and resources.  Instead of watching everything, you can concentrate on the areas of weakness and let the process do the work on the majority of the work.

They Give You Power:  If you follow the prescribed process then you have the power of the entire company behind you.  You are not on your own.  If the process does not provide an acceptable result then the issue is the process, not you or your efforts.  Failing to use the process puts you on your own, without support.  You are playing streetball!

Provide Expected Steps and Results:  With structured processes you never have to question what is next.  You follow the plan to the finish.  At every step you know where you are and where you are going.  The process is familiar.  You do it over and over again.  You notice problems.  You make changes.  You are a coach not a spectator!

Don’t overlook structured processes as a method for improving your business.  Every part of your business process should be examined and documented.  I have had great results through the years making the effort to solidify our construction and management processes.  If we make a mistake it costs us big!  We rely on systems and processes to protect us. 

Standardizing processes and procedures will make a powerful impact on your business.  Get in the game!  Guide your team and stop being a spectator.  You will see that, with strong processes, everyone is a winner!

So what do you think?  Do you have a time when processes protected you?  Press “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!