Free «Strategic Crisis Management Plan» Essay

Strategic Crisis Management Plan

Mercy for Animals (MFA) conducted a secret investigation into one of the largest companies that produce eggs in the United States ‑ Sparboe Farms. This prompted McDonald’s to stop buying eggs from the company though it used to be their main egg supplier. The investigation conducted by MFA unveiled cruel treatment of hens, such as beaks of chicks being burnt off by workers without the use of painkillers. More so, there were instances where workers were carelessly throwing the chicks into cages causing them pain as they hit the floor as a result of missing cage doors. In addition, farms had unhygienic conditions and not enough space for hens to move freely. This investigation created a negative image for McDonald’s as well as the company producing eggs. The two facilities were discovered to have seriously violated the Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) prevention in shell eggs. The violation of animal rules, as done by Sparboe Farms, kills the reputation of the organization and leads to loss of clients for the organization. The paper analyzes crisis management strategies employed by McDonald’s and the Sparboe Farms and suggests how their handling of the situation might have been improved.

Crisis management is a very important process for the company organization. The crisis process involves three stages: the pre-crisis stage, responding to the crisis, and, finally, the post –crisis phase. Fagel (2013) affirms that the phase of pre-crisis involves the prevention and preparation of a crisis. Prevention entails working on reducing the occurrences of crisis situations. For crisis prevention to work, the organization has to create a plan for crisis management, select and train a team of crisis management, conduct exercises testing the plan, and team for crisis management. According to Coombs (2014), the team for crisis management should be pre-designed with specific responsibilities in mind. The team should collect adequate information on crisis management and the information should work as a point of reference. The team should be composed depending on the nature of the crisis. The team should be trained, as it impacts decision making in the event of a crisis.

Concerning the first phase of crisis management, the two facilities involved in this crisis, McDonald’s and the Sparboe Farms, failed to put a specific plan for prevention of Salmonella Enteriditis in place. The SE prevention plans identified during the investigation were not specific to each farm. In line with the views of Tafoya (2013), as part of the phase of pre-crisis, the two facilities failed to perform poultry house environmental test for SE for the molting process that should be done specifically between four and six weeks during the molting process. The facilities lacked documentations listing preventive measures and they did not provide records for the environmental testing as required by the law. The facilities also failed to maintain records or document the level of rodent infestation and pest control in the facilities.  In fact, there were no formal and reliable policies to guide the whole process through decision making and behaviors of the organization.

OSHA regulations require all employers to ensure that their workplaces are sfe and they are free from any hazards. It was sad to note that the facilities did not comply with OSHA regulations, thus leading to serious violations. The employees were constantly moving from poultry houses that were SE positive to poultry houses that were SE negative.  According to Coombs (2014), this threatened the health of  the employees as they did not put into consideration the prevention of cross-contamination of SE. Furthermore, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) investigators noted that the prevention practices for SE in the facilities failed in addressing cross-contamination when employees moved from one poultry house to the other.

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The phase of crisis response is crucial as if refers to what the management says and does when hit by a crisis. This phase consists of two stages: the crisis response that is initial and the repairing of the organization’s reputation as far as the behavioral intentions are concerned. Coombs, Falkheimer, Heide, and Young (2015) assert that the initial response requires the management of the organization to be quick in responding when a crisis occurs. The management should prepare a message within one hour after the occurrence of the crisis. This is important, because an organization is able to tell its during the crisis. They should use the media towards initial response. This saves the organization from attacks through the media. The revolution in social media has increased the initial response time. Furthermore, Coombs, Falkheimer, Heide, and Young (2015) emphasize that the management has to observe accuracy in response. If wrong information has been given, the management should be in a position to correct the information. The organization should have a special spokesman who speaks on behalf of the organization when a crisis occurs. Sparboe Farms used the manager as its spokesman in addressing the violations levied against the company. The manager provided a video on social media of her statement providing the measures undertaken to solve the crisis. Comprehensive internal investigations were conducted by the company. Moreover, the manager said the company would conduct interviews in relation to the crisis in addition to the audits. Apart from this, the manager proposed making management changes and chose to take corrective measures and document them.

The final phase is post-crisis. In this phase, the organization returns to normal business operation. The organization works at repairing its reputation. It should work at taking care of the promises made during the initial response, or the organization risks losing its reputation altogether. Moreover, Fagel (2013) explains that an organization should release updates of its recovery process being put into consideration, the corrective actions taken and the investigations done concerning the crisis. The organization should ensure follow-up communication depending on the promises made when solving the crisis. Organizations are encouraged to use the digital environment in the communication process. For instance, they can use twitter because it has the ability to adequately communicate to a larger group of people when a story develops. More importantly, crisis management is an arena of learning and adaptation. The organization should be able to evaluate what fails and what succeeds in the manageement of a crisis. Organizations should identify ways of improving prevention and response in crisis management. Stakeholders should be updated on the corrective measures taken by the organization.

As far as the final phase is concerned, Sparboe Farm announced its creation of a task force that will work on finding ways that work at increasing the level of animal care in addition to food safety. The company used the double-loop organization learning in solving the crisis.  Agyris and Schon (1978) note that double loop learning entails shifting understanding from simpler and static to more broad and dynamic involving changes in the environment and the dire need in expressing changes. The company announced that it had conducted investigations into the crisis and interviewed and fired four employees that were connected to the crisis. For the purpose of restorations of its image, the company announced that the crisis did not pose health risks and that the crisis only involved cruelty to animals. The company also made public statements declaring that it had addressed the FDA warning letters and changed the management of the company. The company also conducted audits and fully complied with the welfare policies on animals. Coombs (2014) emphasizes that the company has learnt that some of the corrective actions it had taken in solving the crisis were found to be insufficient and thus it initiated immediate steps in rectifying them. Additionally, McDonald’s made public commitments towards a sustainable supply chain.

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Overall, the company should have come up with a crisis management team in line with the recommended communication strategies. The team should be specially trained depending on the nature of a crisis. According to Coombs, Falkheimer, Heide, and Young (2015), each member of the team should be assigned specific duties within crisis management. The company should also identify safety measures and precautions in dealing with hens apart from implementing disciplinary actions against employees who violate the safety procedures. A spokesperson for the company should be identified and they should be vigilant. The company should create forums where employees who violate the safety of the hens can be reported to managers. The company should use social media to reach a wider audience with a desire to repair its reputation. Social media should also be used in communicating the measures taken in solving the crisis. To avoid such crises in future, the company should devise a plan for crisis management and learn from the crisis that has faced the company.

In conclusion, this paper tries to present the best communication strategies for organizations in solving crises. The strategies are summarized in three phases: the pre-crisis phase, the crisis response phase, and the post-crisis phase. These strategies have been integrated with a case study of the McDonald’s and Sparboe Farm crisis of animal cruelty. The paper tries to illustrate how the two companies incorporated the communication strategies in solving the crisis. It is important to have crisis management that is effective, because crisis always has both positive and negative consequence for the organization. Thus, to prevent organizational damages, effective crisis management has to be put in place.

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