Crisis, Issues, and Risk: An Issues Management Model for Businesses

  • Jasjeet Ajimal
| June 2020

1. Introduction

When a crisis occurs, be it a hurricane, forest fire, or a pandemic­, highly skilled disaster teams are on standby to assess situations, deploy resources, and coordinate amongst multiple organizations allowing the fastest possible recovery. Every crisis manager asks similar questions when confronted with a significant issue. Successful crisis managers utilize a similar thought process, one that can be replicated when dealing with any crisis.

Figure 1: Issues Management Model (IMM)

Successful crisis managers have the ability to break down an issue into its simplest form and apply a five-stage thought process which establishes the foundational thinking for any issue or crisis: Knowledge, Establish Operations, Assess Risk & Update Operations, Executive Five Part Process, and Review (Figure 1). Customer facing business employees can learn and apply all five parts to better understand a business’s risks, goals, and how early issues diagnoses can prevent a crisis. While applying the five-stage process, an organization must maintain appropriate communications and assess political risk allowing the preservation of established visions, missions, and values.

The public sector crisis management process translates to the private sector. A business, more specifically, a customer service manager, can utilize the same thought process that the Administrator of United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses during a hurricane if they apply the Issues Management Model. The model allows issues management while ensuring communications and political risk management are weaved into solutions.

National organizations have developed frameworks to manage crisis incidents by mobilizing local, national and international efforts. The most recognized structure, with ingrained systems training is the National Incident Management System, which was created and refined by FEMA. The structure provides frameworks that guide first responders on commands, processes, and functions during a crisis. FEMA’s framework is operational and also teaches how to think through various crises.

Disaster management experts have a thorough understanding of the FEMA structure and how they fit into this command structure. Seasoned crisis managers can utilize FEMA’s framework and apply the five step thought processes—situational diagnosis, analysis, scenario planning, appropriate risk assessments, execution­—with relative ease. The same thought process that is utilized to manage a disaster is useful for day-to-day crisis and issues management. The crisis management thought processes becomes a structured approach to manage any issue that may rise.

When resolving an issue that may escalate to a crisis, the disaster management thought process would allow customer facing workers to diagnose a situation, determine the appropriate response while assessing risk, and activate the action plan. Through analysis, this essay will present how crisis management thought processes can help guide employees in various industries by utilizing a five- step thought process. The five- step process can be utilized within existing structures, day-to-day issues, and major crisis situations.

Client Facing Frontline Worker

In the public sector we define a frontline worker as someone who engages directly with the public. A doctor, nurse, social service worker, teachers, and others that directly deal with the public are considered “frontline.” Similarly, in the private sector, the frontline worker is someone who directly engages with the customers. Businesses refer to frontline workers as “customer facing” or “client facing roles.” Customer facing roles include retail workers, customer service representatives, mechanics, and many others that directly speak with customers.

This paper views frontline workers as private sector employees who manage client relations. For example, a customer care agent that resolves a credit card issue for a client, or a technical support worker who resolves a data issue while directly speaking with the customer would be considered frontline.

It is prevalent that the majority of frontline workers have received corporate training and also have complimentary education and experience allowing optimal job performance. Businesses with frontline employees equipped with the five-stage thought process will develop a new line of risk defence.



1.    Introduction
2.    FEMA: The Foundation and Standard
3.    FEMA’s Core Mission Areas
4.    Public and Private Organizations Utilizing FEMA’s Approach
5.    Thinking like a Crisis Manager
6.    Training Frontline Staff to Utilize the Model
7.    Issues Management Model Applied
8.    Communications and Political Risk
9.    Conclusion


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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ajimal, Jasjeet. “Crisis, Issues, and Risk: An Issues Management Model for Businesses.” Paper, June 2020.

The Author

Jasjeet Ajimal