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According to researchers there are five key questions to ask when adapting to ‘surprise situations’ in business operations, whether this is an incident occurring ‘out of the blue’ or a change in direction of an ongoing crisis.

The researchers at Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University examined police data from an infamous 2011 murder – where a Dutch criminal was shot whilst under surveillance, but the assailant evaded capture due to police failings – to highlight the challenges of adaptability in high intensity situations and relate these to businesses.

The researchers concluded that organizations have difficulty mounting a rapid response to sudden incidents and identified questions that organizations must ask to better prepare for sudden changes in situations.

The five questions are:

1. Does the team have the correct skills? Be certain about co-ordination and communication.

2. Is everyone up to speed? Avoid failure by correctly reporting updates.

3. Are we communicating by the same means? Ensure that using complex technology or more than one communication method doesn’t cause delays or confusion. 

4. Could moving people make the team more effective? Navigate differences between specialities and maximise the skills of your team. 

5. Are procedures in place for errors or surprises? Prepare for unforeseen circumstantial problems or errors.

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