Warning: this article contains a lot of cricketing references. If you are unsure of the meaning of any term, please Google it. I have not deliberately set out to exclude. That wouldn’t be cricket.
A lot has been intoned about the recent cricketing hoo-ha involving the Australian cricket team.
Bouncers have hurtled at the leadership team from commentators and pundits alike. But Cricket Australia was found wanting - bamboozled by one of Shane Warne’s prized googlies. The reputation of cricket in Australia seems to have collapsed like a typical top order collapse of the English cricket team of recent years.
As a Pom living in Australia, I am well qualified to add further commentary. I am not being smug. Far from it, this is appalling. And not because of the shocking act of cheating. No. It’s an appalling example of crisis management. So the incident will go down in history – for the act itself, and the manner of the response.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising. SenateSHJ’s own Reputation Reality research shows low preparedness for and low confidence in managing reputation through a crisis. In fact, only one in four of the people we surveyed last year have high confidence in their ability to manage a crisis.
This latest high-profile case has led me to reflect on some of the critical elements of crisis management, call them the top order. They are essential if crises are to be navigated properly, if not avoided entirely.
Crisis avoidance is as much about behaviour and norms as it is about governance, policies, systems and processes. The rot had set in long before this incident because no one was prepared to tackle core behavioural problems – or indeed to set acceptable standards from top to bottom. It’s as bad as the English team, their poor desire to tackle their lack of a pace bowling attack. Criminal.
Whether you operate in a sporting code, corporation, NGO or government, there is a likelihood something will go wrong. So consider your response beforehand. Be prepared. Have a plan in place and a team ready to go. Know how to handle the quickies with the new ball, or the last few overs when you need to score 30 off the last 12 balls. Own it. Cricket Australia were three wickets down in the first five minutes because they didn’t have a plan. The fact that Steve Smith, the captain, fronted the media first is shocking. He was out for a duck. It was clear there was no scenario testing for this probability, and hence no plan.
Customer (cricket lover)
The trust of your core audience is your most valuable asset. What would they expect in terms of behaviour on a daily basis, and in a crisis? How should you talk to them? What do they need? Remember to be open and informative and in a language they understand. Bowl them a beauty with swift and decisive action.
One of the most important things during a crisis is to have a credible, empathetic spokesperson (preferably the CEO). It is important to care. And in this instance that was clearly the case. But it’s also important to call it like it is, if it’s a bouncer, don’t call it a yorker. It took days, in this case, for the CEO to use the word…cheating. It made him appear to lack authenticity.
Owning the situation means communicating early and often, via the right person and channel, in an open manner. This may be hard because often you don’t know everything, but it’s OK. Learn to cope with this, and use the appropriate medium to reach out. Be consistent, and broaden the issue if you can. In Cricket Australia’s case there was far too much ducking and weaving. In the end, what was said was lost in the anger. Instead of elegant cover drives we watched hit and miss slog shots.
We can only hope Cricket Australia gets its house in order quickly, and makes the changes needed to rebuild its reputation and the game so many Australians love.