New research by Countrywide Porter Novelli has revealed that many crises are entirely preventable while others are actually made worse by attempts to manage them.
CPN has identified the trend as 'crisis incubation' in an academic report by Denis Smith, professor of management at the University of Sheffield.
It happens when organisations do not fully identify the cause of a crisis and allow the potential for failure to increase.
The research reveals four main findings. Firstly, companies need to invest more on preventing crises than handling them - and save money in the long run. Companies also need to learn from the experiences of peers, as well as their own crises.
Thirdly, organisations should listen to outside voices. And finally, communications has a significant role in crisis prevention, both in terms of internal and external communications.
Jonathan Hemus, the director responsible for crisis management at CPN, said the survey went deeper than previous work, and examined the causes of crises.
Even when it appeared on the surface that a crisis was down to 'human error' or 'the hand of God', the reality is a number of factors had conspired to let an incident happen.
Hemus said: 'We've always said it is important to have crisis plans and systems so that you can respond quickly. However, this must be underpinned by a culture which identifies and addresses issues before they become crises.'
Professor Smith's research is based on books and papers about crisis management in the last 30 years, as well as his own research with organisations.
See Leader, p8.