By Garth Rowan, Communications Consultant and member of the Agnes + Day Crisis Intelligence Team.
“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The powerful words of Margaret Mead bear noting and are especially important for organizations focused on crisis avoidance.
All revolutions start with a group of powerless yet committed people. Sometimes they are professional critics with a wider agenda; often they are simply adversely impacted neighbours, scared and angry, who see your project as an imposition. If you were in their shoes, you’d likely agree. The idea is not to confuse the two groups and above all, not to become the focus of the revolution. You do this daily by having great operations and strong relations with your neighbours.
Crisis avoidance vs. crisis management
We know crisis prevention is a much better option than crisis management. But what happens if the “revolutionaries” have made you their focus? The answer lies in how you deal with that group of committed people and how much of their interests you explore. In other words, why do they want what they say they want?
Sometimes powerless, frustrated yet resourceful stakeholders receive nothing for their pain and lose hope, which can turn into bitterness. If they are talented or lucky they can do a huge amount of damage to what seems to you to be a reasonable project. At best, any hard-fought contentious issue will consume large amounts of staff time; at worst, the revolutionaries may win and even stop an already approved project by cancelling your social licence.
You need to take action well before you get to this stage. This is not about giving up or giving in; you have to give something else. What you give is respect in the form of your attention. In other words you sincerely hear and understand what is upsetting your critics. If you look hard, there often are things you can do about their true and often masked, concern.
There is no upside in being on the wrong side of a successful revolution.