Crisis strategic planning for SMEs: Finding the silver lining

John Vargo, Erica Seville

International Journal of Production Research - Creating Resilient SMEs special issue, Vol 49, Issue 18, Sept 2011, pp 5619-5635.  doi: 10.1080/00207543.2011.563902


The ability of business owners/managers to think strategically during the midst of a crisis is a key factor in an organisation’s long term survival, but at present there is very little advice available on how to do this most effectively.  To be resilient in times of crises, organisations need to navigate a set of apparent contradictions that juxtapose effective planning with adaptability to changing circumstances including: (1) have leaders able to inspire people with a sense of hope and direction whilst being grounded about the situation they are in, (2) have an organisational culture that values disciplined planning whilst fostering innovation, (3) plan and make decisions carefully and structured effectively yet be responsive and bold, and (4) have teams able to recognise patterns and integrate information to make sense of a chaotic situation, yet be alert to subtle changes as the situation evolves. In this paper we propose a model for crisis strategic planning to help organisations understand their natural tendencies and how these affect the type of resilience the organisation is able to achieve.  The paper also presents three case studies of small New Zealand organisations coping with the aftermath of crisis to demonstrate how the model can be applied.

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