As a leader in the healthcare industry, Baxter International helps people with complex medical conditions, such as hemophilia, cancer, kidney disease and immune disorders, lead productive and fulfilling lives. Doing business in this industry means that patients’ lives depend on our ability to identify and resolve issues that could interfere with their care before they escalate to a crisis level. As a result, Baxter developed a single, global approach to anticipate and manage internal and external threats.
During the summer of 2002 Baxter received the type of news you pray never comes your way—more than 50 Baxter kidney dialysis patients had died in seven countries and no one knew why. Then, during an internal investigation, Baxter discovered a probable link that it quickly and fully disclosed around the globe. Finding itself in the middle of a full-blown crisis, Baxter responded quickly by ceasing the manufacturing of the filters, closing the two plants where they were made and compensating the families of the victims.
In the midst of the dialyzer situation the company faced the events of September 11 and rose to the challenge of getting critical care products like IV solutions and blood bags to emergency facilities poised to care for victims. 
While Baxter effectively managed the dialyzer situation and the challenge of delivering product to hard-to-reach locations during September 11, both events awakened a strong conviction within senior leaders to ensure it had a coordinated threat management process in place. The fact that Baxter handled recent crises with integrity wasn’t good enough. As an organization, Baxter had a responsibility to identify, plan for and resolve internal and external issues before they reached a crisis level. To ignore this responsibility would be putting the lives of patients on the line.
While everyone agreed Baxter needed a comprehensive approach, the biggest challenge was creating a single, unified plan that stretched across a highly matrixed organization to reach more than 55,000 employees located in more than 110 countries.
The Threat Management Plan was developed over a nine-month period during which a core team, including corporate communications, conducted extensive internal and external benchmarking to identify best-demonstrated practices. This core team also worked with Baxter’s businesses, regions and functions to ensure the resulting approach would be meaningful at all levels of the organization.
During the planning process Baxter identified five key components that were critical for success. The five key components are:
1. Strong philosophy and key ideas. Baxter believes that: threat management is a normal part of doing business; any threat is Baxter’s problem until proven otherwise; resolution requires the balance of conflicting viewpoints; leaders are expected to seek out those viewpoints and ask for help; threat management is consistent with Baxter’s Shared Values of respect, responsiveness and results Baxter must accept responsibility rather than directing blame elsewhere.
2. Dedicated teams. Baxter created ten dedicated and cross-functional Threat Management Teams (TMTs) who are responsible for putting the Threat Management Plan into action when necessary. TMT members are functional experts who are also skilled and trained in threat management. Each team is made up of one team leader and a representative from communications, HR, legal, quality and operations. Adjunct members include finance, manufacturing, environmental health & safety, security, marketing and customer service.
3. Useful tools. Baxter created a multidimensional toolkit including websites, an emergency contact database, a Knowledge Center, a TMT collaboration site housing all materials related to threat management, a risk readiness assessment, and a “Crisis in a Box” designed to focus efforts on a swift resolution rather than on logistics.
4. Effective training. As the coordinating sponsor, Corporate Communications continues to lead TMT crisis simulation and planning workshops that address threat categorization, the identification of roles and responsibilities, role-playing, the identification and mitigation of high-risk areas, and the development of a clear game plan. Due to budget and travel constraints for these global teams, all training was conducted virtually during monthly two-hour sessions for five months. Doing the training in-house and virtually resulted in a substantial savings for Baxter.
5. On-going operations and measurement. Baxter developed a self-assessment tool that generates weighted scores for each team based on key criteria for successful threat management. This “readiness assessment” tool helps monitor active issues under management, determine how prepared teams are to act, and identify existing gaps.
Baxter’s Threat Management Plan was developed as one of four key components of a broader Preparedness Plan, which also includes: Safety & Security—making sure that its people and its facilities are safe at all times; Facility Emergency Response—having the plans in place to quickly respond and recover from a natural or man-made disaster at the individual facility level; and Business Continuity—making sure it has contingency plans in place to ensure the manufacturing and supply chain capabilities are not jeopardized under any circumstance.
The Threat Management Plan is based on the philosophy that threats occur as a normal part of business and are not a sign of failure. Successful resolution depends on synthesizing multiple (and often conflicting) points of view and then doing the right thing to resolve the situation. While every threat is different, Baxter’s overall approach to managing threats is consistent on a worldwide basis.
Baxter established a four-level model for evaluating the intensity of a threat and escalating it as appropriate:
1. Emergency: A special type of threat that deals with a localized accident, failure or other event that requires immediate action and resolution by the appropriate operational functions. An emergency can escalate into a crisis if it develops to impact wider business operations.
2. Issue: A potential threat to the company or its products and key stakeholders. Knowledge or awareness of the threat’s consequences to Baxter is limited to the company’s management. An issue is the proverbial “red flag” because, if managed properly, it can be minimized or all-together mitigated.
3. Risk: A perceived threat to something of personal value (e.g., life, property) to Baxter’s key stakeholders. A risk has both the potential to generate negative publicity and to result in lost business and/or a wholesale loss of confidence in the company’s preeminence among target audiences.
4. Crisis: An actual and critical event that causes Baxter’s stakeholders and/or others to lose trust and confidence in Baxter. In a crisis situation, the consequences to Baxter are widely known within and outside the company. A crisis consumes a significant amount of time and resources, generates widespread negative publicity and potentially results in lost business.
With a comprehensive communications plan developed, Baxter was ready to launch its entire Preparedness Plan and more specifically, roll-out details around Threat Management. The four key communications objectives were to: increase the level of awareness and understanding among all Baxter employees of Baxter’s Preparedness Plan; prove the value of the Preparedness Plan, including its unified processes, procedures and tools, to influencer groups and leverage their help in educating others about preparedness at Baxter; demonstrate the value and create acceptance/buy-in of the threat management process to all Baxter employees; and inform Threat Management Team (TMT) members about their role and prepare them for their responsibilities.
 Three audiences were defined: all employees, Baxter’s Senior Management Team (SMT), and Threat Management Team members. Communications targeted to each audience were categorized according to the following phases: Awareness, Implementation, Training and Monitoring.
 Currently the awareness phase of the plan is complete. In addition, all TMT leads have been fully trained, debriefing session are conducted on a regular basis, learnings are shared amongst the teams and the training of all TMT members is currently underway. As Baxter move forward, there are several ways it is evaluating the success of threat management at Baxter. First, Baxter conducts routine readiness assessments with its TMTs to identify gaps before a TMT is called into action. Second, Baxter is evaluating the number of resolvable threats that escalate to the next level. Over time this number will help Baxter determine its progress towards creating a corporate environment where employees and supervisors feel comfortable speaking up about potential threats and addressing them effectively.
Because of this plan, Baxter is better prepared to handle an internal or external threat and, as a result, protect its reputation and financial health. The true success of Baxter’s Threat Management Plan lies in the collaboration and training tools that will allow the company to minimize the adverse impact of threats.