Managing Crises in a Sprint

Immediately following the module returning from winter break, the entire student cohort took a week and completed our second sprint exercise. In this most current sprint, each learning team took to dealing with a [simulated] possible E.coli outbreak inside their organization which mirrored Chipotle-like restaurants. However, before each team starts off developing courses of action, each team receives insight from a current professional crisis management team which has addressed similar situations in the past. Bringing in current professionals outside the school assists in leveraging what we learned in classes thus far and helps students put a real-world spin on some direct application.

To successfully complete the sprint, each team had to make it through five days of intense team work and collaboration. For example, each team must juggle multiple operational decisions against strategic ones, while continually answering questions from customers, media, and shareholders wanting answers to the “hows” and “whys” behind the decisions. From submitting mock press releases to the media to mock hostile boardroom discussions with directors, these are just a few of the exercise design elements to move a team out of their comfort zones and hold them responsible for the words and actions.

Overall at the end of the sprint, each team has a stronger appreciation of managing an organizational level crisis. How answering one specific stakeholder with answers will generate new questions of inquiry from another. The most important sprint takeaways is that, first, there is no one right answer in a crisis and that no one person can manage it alone. And second, each organizational leader will undoubtedly need a strong, trusted team to see a crisis through and come out ahead.