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What are the Three Stages of Crisis Management?


In today’s unpredictable business environment, effective crisis management is more important than ever. It is crucial for maintaining business continuity and building organisational resilience. This article will guide you through the steps of crisis management, providing you with tactical advice to protect your employees and manage a crisis effectively.

Crises can be triggered by natural disasters, pandemics cyberattacks, and more , but a crisis truly emerges from the impact these events have on an organisation. The impact of COVID-19 on crisis management was unprecedented, with project management and human resource departments often taking on additional responsibility. The BCI Crisis Management survey findings suggest that COVID-19 has propelled the principle of crisis management into a much more collaborative, inclusive, and dynamic discipline. 

Crises share common elements that require similar responses, regardless of their specifics. International SOS’ methodology has a universal approach to crisis management, grounded by the essential "one size fits all" principle.

The key benefits to this approach include:

  • Standardised Framework
  • Simplified Processes
  • Efficient Resources Allocation
  • Quicker Response
  • Strategic Decision-Making
  • Consistent Communication

The International SOS crisis management methodology presents a comprehensive approach that aligns seamlessly with the standards outlined in ISO 22361:2022 and ISO 31030. This methodology is designed to ensure organisations can effectively manage crises, ensuring resilience and continuity in the face of challenges. 

This methodology explicitly addresses each phase of a crisis - Pre-Crisis, Crisis Response, and Post-Crisis - to provide a comprehensive framework for managing crises effectively. 

For each of the three stages of the crisis lifecycle, International SOS identifies several key activities to ensure complete resilience.   THREE STAGES OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT


Arguably the most important stage of crisis management, effective pre-crisis planning is crucial to an effective crisis response and recovery. This stage is a highly collaborative one that brings together key stakeholders to identify and detect the “What?” and prepare for the “How?”

To begin, an assessment and identification of systemic risks to your organisation must be conducted to reveal the unique critical situations that could impact your organisation holistically. ‘Systemic risk’ is defined as the possibility of a collapse or major failure of an entire system or a significant part of it, rather than the isolated failure of individual elements.

This type of risk is characterised by complex interdependencies within systems, where failures in one part can propagate and cause cascading disruptions in other parts . It is important to fully understand the potential impact of these crises on your activities and then prioritise them. By understanding these systemic risks, you can take steps towards prevention and preparation for any major potential impact. 

Once you have an understanding of any systemic risks to your organisation, detection of weak signals can then be put in place. This includes strategic monitoring and trend analysis. Again, here the key is collaborative work and each domain concerned by the potential impact should run their own early detection process. Weak signals are subtle indications, often overlooked or undetected, that may suggest the emergence of an important trend or change. They are usually difficult to identify due to their low intensity or unusual nature but can be precursors to significant changes. 

For example, prior to the widespread protests and revolutions that swept through the Arab world in the Arab Spring 2010-2011, there were several subtle indicators hinting at the brewing unrest. These weak signals included: Rising Food Prices and Economic Hardship; Increased Use of social media for Dissent; Localised Protests and Dissent; Intellectuals and Activists’ Warnings.

In the organise phase, organisations further develop plans and processes to assign team members and key stakeholders into them. If you are building crisis management plans for a large global conglomerate it is especially important to consider cognitive bias and cultural sensitivities in your development, as the negative impacts of crises can be amplified when these considerations are ignored. 

Once you have identified and assessed these potential ”blind spots”, the path is paved to develop a comprehensive crisis response plan. This plan, that we recommend you keep simple and not too granular, should detail the procedures to follow in the event of a crisis, including impact assessment, team activation, roles and responsibilities, situation control, communication strategies, decision making process, and closing/recovery approach.

Lastly, in the pre-crisis stage, training must be conducted to ensure employees know how to respond effectively during a crisis and ensure the continuity of business operations. Regular workshops can help employees familiarise themselves with the crisis response plan and their role in it. Table top, crisis simulations and awareness sessions are also helpful. We recommend a “Bottom-Up Resiliency” approach as you want all your staff to become sensors and effectors in times of crisis.

It can also be helpful to leverage intelligence from your partners, for example the yearly Risk Outlook Report released by International SOS includes informed predictions of the top five risks for 2024.

Four Steps in the Pre-Crisis Phase:
  1. Identify systemic risks.
  2. Detect weak signals with strategic trend monitoring and analysis systems.
  3. Organise your plans and processes and integrate in with key stakeholders.
  4. Train employees with awareness sessions, table stop, crisis simulations.

Crisis Management Workshop Dubai March 2024


Clear and timely action and communication is vital during a crisis. It is not enough to know when a crisis is happening. To demonstrate your Duty of Care responsibilities, organisations must also have the means to quickly and accurately respond and communicate with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the media. 

Establishing control is an essential first step of any crisis. To do this, quickly clarify the facts, impacts, immediate measures, the need for information and all possible situation developments (for better and for worse).

Orchestrating your stakeholders comes next, here also quickly map all entities involved with the five Ps (Personnel / Powers / Public / Press / Partners) and around this analysis build your Response Teams. 

Based on the crisis you are facing, start solving it. The solve phase involves a strategic approach to resolving the crisis not just as it is today but with a long-term lens. Crises may be perceived to be situational or temporary, but they always have long-term impacts. To proceed: identify your desired-end state, your workstreams to achieve it, attribute ownerships, solve each workstream in options, choose one, and then issue your intent and actions. Keep your options as a plan B or C.

In 2023, International SOS enacted multiple crisis response plans on behalf of clients impacted by the ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis. These took the form of Crisis Management Teams, who not only developed individual plans of action for each client but also coordinated risk assessments with accredited security partner resources on-the-ground, this effort was further supported by intelligence with a 24/7 outlook and regular threat mapping. 

In times of crisis, communication is about building trust through consistency. Your workforce must feel you are taking action. A well-executed communication strategy can help manage perceptions, maintain trust, and ensure a coordinated response. It is important to have a designated spokesperson and a plan for how information will be disseminated as well as a detailed timeline for employees to visualise the effects of a crisis. 

Time visualisation not only helps in planning a response but also in identify upcoming possible deltas (gaps) that will occur in the execution of your plan. It is also helpful in capturing various time zones, organisation, and stakeholders in one place which reveals the complexity of an ecosystem. Don’t underestimate the importance of this last methodical tool, it has proven its effectiveness many times and for all type of organisations.

Five Steps in the Crisis Response Phase: 
  1. Control the situation by taking immediate action and protecting your workforce.
  2. Orchestrate your stakeholders and your Crisis Management Teams.
  3. Solve the long-term implications of the crisis by creating workstreams with multiple options and contingency plans.
  4. Communicate with internal and external stakeholders to manage perceptions and build trust, consistency, and coherence.
  5. Visualise Time to help you identify gaps in the execution of your plan and reveal the possible existence of deltas complexity of solutions.

Crisis Room


Crisis are incredibly stressful and draining, often taking a large emotional toll on those involved and those who had to manage it. Adequate support is required to a workforce post-crisis to alleviate mental health impacts. Organisations must have systems and tools in place to encourage employee wellbeing such as counselling services, mental health days, and wellness programmes

Crisis management is not a one-time task. It is important to regularly review and update your crisis management plan to ensure it remains effective and relevant. Continuous improvement is fundamental to maintaining organisational resilience. After a crisis, conduct a post-crisis analysis (After Action Review) to identify what worked well and to envision what could be improved. 

The results of a post-crisis analysis will reveal which parts of a crisis management plan can be consolidated and which areas need expansion. After a crisis, it is important to understand what the post-crisis world looks like and how new threats can impact your organisation differently to the World before.  All procedures and plans must now be pressure-tested again within this new remit. Thus, the crisis management wheel continues to the pre-crisis phase again.

It can also be useful to involve a third-party consulting service to test your crisis management plans and conduct a crisis management Maturity Assessment.

Four Steps in the Post-Crisis Phase: 
  1. Support should be provided by organisations in the form of systems and tools to encourage employee wellbeing such as counselling services, mental health days, and wellness programmes.
  2. Review and update your crisis management plan by conducting a post-mortem analysis, especially after a crisis has occurred.
  3. Envision the post-crisis world and how this new reality impacts your existing activities so you can adapt and make changes where necessary.
  4. Test the new plans given the new post-crisis world.
BCI report 

How International SOS Can Help?

With almost 40 years of crisis management expertise, we have been supporting our clients navigate the complexities of a crisis. Our knowledge and expertise give us access to best-in-class resources, and networks. A global presence allows us to better understand cultural sensitivities and regulatory frameworks, enhancing the effectiveness and adaptability of crisis management strategies. We have extensive experience supporting decision-makers and crisis units within organisations and improving their resilience and crisis management strategies.


  1. BCI Survey Findings: