Chaos & Opportunity (Part 3): Observing Observers

This is the third and last component of the Chaos & Opportunity series; “Observing Observers.”  That almost sounds like a mystery novel or some story line for a horror movie (I think there is a movie called “The Watcher” that came out with I was still in high school (cough)). 

With every disaster, crisis or event comes something else; an audience.  No matter what the situation, there is always someone watching the situation unfold whether this is done over the internet, through phone calls, pictures, journalist transmissions or directly standing in observance.  There is always an audience to every situation.  If there wasn’t there would be no reading the articles, no one paying attention, no one asking questions and no one concerned.  If there is no one involved, is there still a disaster?  Well, you could argue about earthquakes in remote locations or undersea volcanoes – things that people don’t see but it still get reported through the media somehow.  Even if it’s a brief news item – it still is getting an audience even when no one was there to actually see the event occur.

Corporations need to remember that there is always someone watching when a crisis occurs.  Even if it’s a small incident, someone is paying attention to how you’re dealing with the situation and what you’re doing about it. 

So, who’s watching an organization – maybe your organization – when something occurs?  The public, media outlets and journalists of all sorts, clients, customers, suppliers, sellers and possibly government and/or legislative agencies.

What are they looking for?  Well, that can be dependent upon the situation itself.  In Part I of the Chaos & Opportunity series (Learning Through Adversity), there is opportunity for others to observe the behaviour of corporations going through crisis situations.  It is their chance – which should be taken at all times – to open up their BCM plans and processes for the possibilities of improvement based on the responses of the corporation in disaster.  They can capture what is going well and what isn’t going well and compare that to their own plans for improvements.  They may get to change them for the better or they may change them to remove items (or amend them) that wouldn’t work.

Nevertheless, how can a corporation know that?  By watching not just what the corporation with the disaster is doing but also by watching and observing the behaviours of those, who themselves are watching the situation unfurl.  To make sense of that, if you are watching a group of 10 people surrounding a disaster scene, you are not just watching the disaster scene but you’re looking at the faces of the others observing the disaster scene and reading their responses.  In effect, you’re watching the watchers watch the disaster.  Make sense? 

If an organization is experiencing a situation and they are trying to manage it using various plans and processes, there is no guarantee that the processes being implemented will work and be received with the desired effect.   It is possible that the corporation is providing a transparent view of the situation and is helping every way it can but the public or some other area may not be viewing the situation in the same light as the corporation or interpreting the information in the intended way.

When this occurs, the corporation can watch what the disgruntled customer, corporation or agency is stating and why they are disgruntled.  It may be that the message is correct but the delivery channel is wrong or the amount of messages is too great in volume and a core message was lost in amongst all the other things communicated. 

The opportunity for corporations is to watch what the corporation is doing but also watch how the intended audiences are responding. Though all the messages are correct and the corporation with the disaster may appear to be managing the situation well, it doesn’t mean the audiences will be responding positively. 

Look back at your own plans to see if what you have established will have the same adverse effect.  It may be that an assumption was built into the plan that based on the situation you’re observing isn’t true after all. 

Has the corporation lost the backing of the community because of the disaster and if so, how did they lose the backing?  They may have had all the right plans in place but the reaction to the management of the disaster – outside of the initial shock of the disaster – wasn’t what the corporation intended when they built their plans.  Even if there was a good rapport with the community prior to the situation occurring.

As an observer, a BCM professional, practitioner or casual onlooker, there is always an opportunity to see the reactions of others when something occurs; the reactions beyond those of the corporation who is actually living the crisis. They will provide signs – through their comments, opinions, facial expressions and body language – if a corporation is managing their situation appropriately.  If not, take note on how your organization might be able to fend of the negative vibes should something occur to your company.

The learning experiences aren’t just those provided by the event but also by the responses and actions the event will initiate; amongst corporations, countries, communities and individuals.  It may even cause changes in perceptions of an entire industry that, if you are part of, may need to proactively respond to so that you aren’t impacted by the situation on a peripheral level. 

It could cause changes to laws and regulations that if you’ve been paying attention to, might not have such a large impact upon your operations if you can spot the learning opportunities prior to any legal or regulatory changes. 

You can use the learning’s of watching others – as well as the corporation with the disaster – as selling features to enhance your sales potential and position the sales and marketing strategy in such a way that you directly take aim at what others were thinking and believing during the disaster. 

To go back to the disaster scene with the 10 observers; if you can determine which people are concerned about the situation from those that aren’t, you are going to know how to address each person on an individual basis.  Someone with tears in their eyes, obviously concerned for those involved won’t be responding to the situation the same way as someone who has a stern face and says things such as , ‘they deserved it.’

Learn from what other observers can teach you during a disaster, not just the corporation with the disaster.  Opportunity is all around during a chaos.  Find your silver lining in the cloud of chaos.


The new book by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3, “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility.”  Available at **



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