Statistically speaking, it is likely that at some point something will go wrong during a product inspection. A proactive company is one that tries to consider all of the angles. They ask “what if?” about most, if not all, conceivable situation. They create and stash away contingency plans. But the fact of the matter is that you will still be caught unawares at some point. To be successful in working through a problem with minimal disruption, it is important to know how to react when things go sideways.
First of all, you have to remember that when things go wrong, the company will automatically take their cues from the boss. If they are looking to you, you need to send a strong, calm, and decisive message. It is important to remember that you need to not only say reassuring things and give strong guidance, you also need to behave calmly to avoid spreading anxiety.
Next, you need to get to the root of the issue. It is all too common for managers, especially those new to the industry, to panic about the immediate consequences of the issue and neglect the root of the cause. Band-Aid solutions will come back to haunt you. If there is problem, you need to find where your system failed, and you need to take steps to ensure that it does not fail again. Use this as an opportunity to build a more stable and reliable supply chain. Not only will this be directly beneficial, but it will also assist you in demonstrating strong leadership by reacting calmly and rationally.
Effectively communicating the issue to everyone involved should be next. This step should be taken as quickly as possible after identifying both the problem and the solution. Get out in front of it—avoiding sharing the news with your customers in particular can severely damage trust. Communicate the issue clearly, the steps being taken to resolve it, and that their satisfaction is guaranteed. As the solution is involved, keep them abreast of the issue, but don’t inundate them with updates or you may trigger anxiety. Sending an update regularly has the added benefit of establishing a routine which communicates control over the situation. Be sure to be clear about what you are doing to ensure that the problem will not happen again, and resist the urge to make promises that you will not be able to deliver upon. Trust is everything.
Be flexible. A crisis is not a time to be dogmatic about program policies. As the leader, you should be acting as the focal point for this issue, and you should be willing to do whatever it takes to resolve without comprising your ethics or integrity. You may have to come up with an innovative solution outside of your normal activities. Be willing to consider unorthodox approaches to the problem. Flexibility will not only help you to come up with the best solution for the problem, but it will demonstrate commitment and willingness to sacrifice to make it right for your customers.
Just remember: this is a learning experience. Take a deep breath, understand the solution, fix the issue and the underlying problems, and project confidence. You will be fine.