My alma mater, the University of Washington, has a pretty strong men’s basketball program again this year. They are the pre-season pick to win the Pac-10, and are ranked in the Top 25 of college basketball. Two days ago, they lost their starting point guard, Abdul Gaddy, for the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. For many programs, this type of loss could be a killer. For the Huskies, although it hurts, they have an extremely deep bench and it simply means some guys get more playing time. In last night’s tilt against Oregon, freshman Terrence Ross scored 25 points in extended action in the win. The Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar has constructed a team that is prepared to go “next guy up” when disaster happens.

Take a look at your organization.

If you were to lose one of your top management people, top sales producers, or top technology gurus, what would you do? They may be hired away by a competitor; forced to move due to family issues; or perhaps be killed or disabled. Heck, what if the CEO or another C-level position is lost? For most organizations, this is a crisis. How the organization handles it will ultimately determine its success or even survival.

Organizations must do what Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar has done with his “organization.” They must develop bench strength. The concept of “next guy or gal up” must be a part of the process, and it must be planned. As head of our organization, regardless of your size, you must have a plan in place to deal with sudden loss of personnel. In fact, I maintain that the smaller the business, the more critical each moving part becomes.

Example – if you are a 5-person insurance agency and all of a sudden lose the only commercial producer you have to a competitor, what do you do? Are one of the other people in your office capable of picking up the duties? Have they been trained in advance? Are there relationships you’ve built with other individuals or referral sources that you can tap? What usually happens is the owner must pick up the slack, meaning that the work they were doing goes undone or delayed.

Crisis comes in many forms. These topics under Crisis Strategist will offer you peeks into different scenarios that may be a crisis to your business. Some can be covered by insurance; other can’t and must be planned for and communicated to employees. Virtually every one involves improving relationships either internally or externally.

In this case study, developing a strong bench takes time. It requires actions like recruiting, managing, training, and communicating. Too often, this detail is overlooked until the crisis is at hand, which only exacerbates the issue. Take control of your bench and make sure you are in position to win the game when your star  goes down!

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved