A completed Rubik's cube

Get SMART about your crisis training

July 29, 2021

Get SMART about your crisis training

Critical takeaways

  • Training without a clear objective often wastes time, resources and money.
  • Instead, have a clear sense of the gaps that you face in your crisis readiness program and where you need to see change.
  • Then use SMART objectives to help clearly define your desired outcomes to ensure that your training or simulation is effective and helps you close any gaps in your crisis readiness 


Determine the Change you Want to See

The first question you need to ask yourself is: what changes do you want to see in your organization, team or department? 

If you’re not sure, then one of your pre-objectives is to figure this out. That might require you to do a gap analysis, look back at the reports from previous training sessions, meet with your team and even do some soul-searching. 

Once you have an idea of the kind of change you want to bring around, then ask yourself where you want to see this change: in attitudes, skills, maturity, culture or expertise? From here you can move on to putting an action verb against each of them (e.g. faster, shorter, quicker) so you can get very specific about the results you want to see. 

This understanding of the change you are trying to bring about, where the change has to occur and the kind of change should easily translate into the SMART objective format.

Objectives First

Before you do any preparation or planning for crisis training, particularly a simulation, the first thing you need to do is to establish your objectives. Setting these early on will serve as a guide for all the subsequent decisions that you have to make. Plus, these objectives will be the benchmarks you use to determine if your training has been successful or not. 

Unfortunately, when objectives aren’t clearly set we often find the training isn’t properly directed and even though a simulation might take place, the training benefits and desired outcomes aren’t met. In short, unclear objectives lead to a waste of training time and budget.

It is crucial, however, to remember that goals and objectives are two different things, even though the terms are used interchangeably at times.

I consider goals to be abstract – they’re visions with no tangible plan. Goals are great for setting a long-term vision and motivating a team but they are too vague to be useful for planning. Objectives are action-based and will help you hone in on specific steps that will help you get to the desired goal. 

I always encourage clients (and our team) to use the SMART mnemonic for objectives (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound) objectives. This helps ensure that the objectives are clear and achievable and avoids wasted energy and resources.

SMART objectives are therefore a great way to define your objectives but how do you know what your objectives should be in the first place?

Know Your Audience

Once the planning for your simulation or training is nearly complete, your last task is to double-check everything against the objectives you set earlier. 

Is the simulation going to be an effective way to achieve the objectives? 

Are they reaching and connecting with the right audience? 

Are the right group of people to actually bring about this change or does this need to be somewhere else? 

This final point is important because, if you are addressing an attitude that’s systemic within your organization, that might be different from the change that you want to see in your team. So it’s critical to make sure you’ve got the right audience.

Think about the behavior, what do you want to see differently? What is the concrete thing and the behavior that you as the leader want to see differently? Then to what degree of mastery does your team need to achieve to be better at this or is it necessary for them to perfect it?


Crises have a way of being unpredictable and coming at the most inconvenient times, so one can never be too prepared. Therefore it’s important to have a plan in place that can be set in motion at the first sign of trouble. A functional organization with an engaged team is a force to be reckoned with. You can get your team to whatever goal post you set by being an embodiment of what you’d like to see in your organization and setting SMART objectives to help navigate the muddy waters of leadership. 

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Filed under: Blog


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.