People go to doctors when they are ill. When a company gets ill, it needs a crisis manager. When a crisis strikes, the executive board takes the case to a crisis manager to minimize the losses. While the term crisis manager is not an official term in Korea, there is a man who has lived a life as a crisis manager. Kim Dae Hyun (’85, Law), a former relief pitcher in leading companies, shared his life story to introduce the occupation, crisis manager, to his juniors at Korea University (KU).
GT: What is a crisis manager?
Kim: There are two types of crises. One is external, and the other is internal. External crises are visible while internal crises cannot be seen by the naked eye; it needs an expert. Mostly, internal crises lead firms to huge losses. That is what makes firms need people who can interpret the state of crises, draw out all the possible scenarios, and establish strategies to deal with unpredictable variables. That is what a crisis manager basically does.
GT: How do crises form in a company?
Kim: When an affiliate company manages to take control of all the information, or gets lost among its list of priorities, it leads the company into the condition of “safety ignorance” due to its members’ arrogance. That arrogance then nudges the affiliate company to block channels of communication with the outer world, refusing new information. Lack of information and safety ignorance in such a tight corporate schedule leads the firm to lose future outlook and make mistakes that lead to huge losses. That is how a typical crisis forms.
GT: Since when did you consider having this occupation?
Kim: It is hard for me tell exactly when, because it was never my decision to become a crisis manager. I always received endless requests from desperate owners of companies in their devastating situations. Companies wanted me as their relief pitcher, and I responded to their need.
GT: Could you introduce one of the most memorable crises you dealt with?
Kim: If I had to pick the most memorable one, it was my experience in KHvatec. I was employed in KHvatec as the director of the headquarters in the sensor production department. The sensor department was one of two affiliate companies of KHvatec, and it always ended up with deficits. The owner of the company himself had even prohibited the members of the sensor production department from having get-togethers, because of their annual deficits. When I first got there, the rate of production was 75 percent, and 50 percent of the completed sensors were faulty. I could see why the company could not but end up with deficits. In order to bring a change to the environment I started to study about the production line. It was a completely new field of area for me, whom have only studied law at KU, and yet I did not have a choice. At first, I had no idea what the 4M (Material, Men, Machine, and Method) stood for in the production line. I had to look up books and spent day and night in the factory to figure out a way to decrease the rate of faulty products. After nine months, the rate of production increased to 97 percent, and the rate of faulty products decreased to 0.5 percent. Since then, the sensor department of KHvatec turned into an independent company and KHvatec now holds 12 affiliate companies. This is the most memorable crisis that I can introduce. I would like to share more, but unfortunately, most part of my work is confidential.
GT: What did you like about being a crisis manager of a firm?
Kim: What is fascinating about being a crisis manager is that once I am assigned to manage a crisis in a company, the life and death of the whole company suddenly comes to depend on me. I still cannot forget the change I made in KHvatec. It is hard to explain the thrill of saving a company through the interpretations and decisions I make.
GT: What advice would you give to the potential juniors who wish to become a crisis manager like you? What kind of academic path would you like to advise them to take?
Kim: I graduated with a major in law at KU, and it is true that it led me to the path of a crisis manager at some aspects, but I do not believe the career path as a crisis manager has a lot to do with the major one chooses. Being an expert is important, but in order to become a good crisis manager, having a large spectrum of knowledge is much more important. In order to have a wide range of knowledge, it is best to have a lot of experience. However, as it is impossible to experience everything in real life, Indirect experience─reading─is important. I would advise those who wish to become a crisis manager to read a lot of books. I have read approximately twenty thousand books thus far─that means an average of one book per day.
Having said all that, Kim commented that the future of the job is very bright. He said that the firms will continue to confront various crises which most of the executive members tend not know how to deal with. “The future of this job is bright because, the firms need such a resource in order to keep their companies running,” he said. He furthermore expressed his willing ness and desire to establish a course for those who wish to become a crisis manager. “I am looking forward to establishing a course for those who wish to become a crisis manager, and I wish I could do that at KU,” he continued, “If establishing such a course in the undergraduate program is impossible, I also have plans to try building the course at Lyceum. I wish I could provide those who wish to become crisis managers with quality education.”