• Connect Magazine PWN Vienna

Navigating Safely Through the Crisis


by Sabine M. Fischer


Everyone is now looking for resilience. Can a person or a company become "resilient" at once?

The term "resilience" is often used to show what is important in this crisis: to have the necessary flexibility and future orientation to survive as a company despite all the uncertainties. "Staying steady on fluid ground" as it is so aptly put in English.


Do you remember the pilot of a damaged airliner who landed it safely on the Hudson River? That was a small-scale corona virus crisis situation! A plane full of frightened people at each other's mercy.


If someone had panicked there and not followed the rules, there would have been far more likely no survivors. The pilot had to be particularly disciplined: Complete awareness of all information available to him, reassuring himself and everyone else, and making clear evidence-based decisions.


You can only do this from now on if you have practiced it beforehand and if you have the essential basic requirements: a stable personality and an infrastructure that is at least halfway functional. The best pilot falls like a stone from the sky with a shot-up plane.


'Building an aircraft in flight,' is a comparison I have used many times in my life for surprising situations that need to be solved. I only know of instability covering so many areas of life as in the "corona virus crisis" from my grandparents' war stories. Their tips and my personal experience in coping with corporate crises taught me: Now it is important to be mindful, to maintain a calm and clear mind".

So what are the key factors that make a company resilient?

From a one-person company to a large corporation, you need three resource packages:

  • Evidence-based, reliable information.

  • An infrastructure that enables you to act

  • An attitude that goes hand in hand with openness to new ideas and a high level of reflection with the necessary flexibility and serenity when making mistakes.

The larger the company is, the more these resources must be invested not only in the management, but also in the organisational structure.

Why is the organizational structure as important as the manager?

Organizational structures determine processes, meeting circles and responsibilities. The simplest example of this is access to office supplies: what do I have to do to get new office supplies, who is responsible for them, who can I ask? In addition to the formal structures, the informal ones can really be decisive, as each of us knows from our own experience. Both give the people in the organisation orientation and enable efficient and goal-oriented action.


In small, manageable organisations, where everyone knows everyone, this orientation work is often done by individuals, e.g. the owners, which is why contradictions are relatively rare. This danger increases with the increasing size of organisations: More people have to "pull together", without being able to coordinate daily, for the organisation to function. This is achieved by guidelines that apply to everyone and a logical structure that corresponds to these guidelines.


Organisations fail if their organisational structure does not comply with their own guidelines and specifications. Because if people have no orientation, they tend to act not in the sense of a common goal, but in their own interest. Especially in crisis situations this ends fatally – even if there were actually enough material resources to survive.

Can you explain these relationships using an example?

The passengers of the American airliner that the pilot wanted to land on the Hudson River had the common goal of survival. And the pilot explained to them very clearly what they had to do to achieve this: Stay calm and follow the instructions of the crew. These instructions were familiar to the people from the beginning of the flight. And the pilot knew the whole danger situation from many, many exercises on the flight simulator.


Thus, although everyone was confronted with an unpleasant and surprising situation, they were aware of some of it. This made it easier for everyone to follow certain procedures while remaining flexible. And so, together, they significantly increased their chances of survival.

What does this mean for companies in the current corona virus crisis?

Firstly: Your chances of survival increase the better your digital infrastructure is developed and the more "contingency plans" you have in your drawer. If you are now painfully aware of any shortcomings, stay calm and move on to the next point. Especially in times of crisis it does not help to "complain about spilt milk", as my grandmother used to say.


Secondly, look specifically for those areas in which you can make a personal impact by taking action, gather as much information as possible, draw up a concrete plan and clear instructions for yourself and your staff step by step, and stick to them like our aircraft pilot from the Hudson River.

Third: Create "quiet zones" where you can do "business as usual". In this way you create a space for yourself, your employees and customers to breathe in all the hectic rush because everyone knows their way around here. People can deal better with change if some familiar procedures remain as they always were.

How do these tips help the families who are now facing such massive demands?

In many families the infrastructure, e.g. due to cramped room situations and poor private computer equipment, is now a major problem area that often cannot be changed.


Here it is particularly important to have clear room layouts – who can use the kitchen table alone for work and when? And also to create individual retreat zones. These "personal quiet zones" can also be created, for example, by listening to music undisturbed via headphones. It is important, especially in a confined space, to keep at least psychological distances and thus give everyone "air to breathe".


Just as in companies, it is also important in families to name the common goal and to discuss the way to achieve it again and again and to adjust it if necessary. In doing so, look specifically for what works well and try to reinforce these points in everyday life. Be open to new things and create variety by consciously redesigning processes – if these lead to funny situations, then you have gained a lot by laughing together.


Perhaps it helps some adults to be able to apply at home in this difficult situation everything they have learned in communication training, e.g. attentive listening, respectful communication at eye level and composure when mistakes happen.

And remember: you are not alone! Most of us are "building an aircraft in flight". Be a flexible and motivating leader – for yourself and the people around you! This is the best way to increase the resilience in your family and in your company.


And if you need a co-pilot next to you at short notice, we offer you the following immediate opportunities:

  1. Support with grant applications, e.g. what numbers and proofs do I have to prepare, which grants are valid for me at all? Please contact Barbara Huber at kontakt@barbara-huber.at

  2. We use the time now to review your existing marketing documents together and consider which marketing activities are pending, so that you can restart well prepared after the crisis! Please contact DI (FH) Christina Thomar at cthomar@ctconsulting.at

  3. You are looking for an experienced sparring partner for your questions about leadership, communication and organisation? Please contact Dr. Sabine M. Fischer at sabine.m.fischer@symfony.at


About the Author

Dr. Sabine M. Fischer, SYMFONY Consulting, is a business educator, human factor management consultant and spokeswoman for the Industry 4.0/IoT working group. Learn more about current topics of Sabine M. Fischer and network with her online:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/SabineMFischer https://www.xing.com/profile/SabineM_Fischer https://www.facebook.com/SabineMariaFischer https://www.facebook.com/WomenTalkBusiness

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