Business resilience is the ability to quickly adapt and respond to disruptive events and resume business to a pre-determined level of operation following that disruption.
Never has there been such an important time to look at business resilience and how organisations cope with a global pandemic. Not just the way it can impact people medically, but the secondary and tertiary shockwaves that are often overlooked from a business perspective.
The COVID-19 crisis will have affected employees, client bases and supply chains, catastrophically in some cases. It is therefore important that business strategies are reviewed to turn what is a crisis into an opportunity for positive review and change. This means adapting to the new normal and making it work for us. As the world remains in state of financial instability , lockdown and infections reaching over 3 million, there is still much to learn about the cycle of this virus and how we learn to live with it.
What can be done?
– Evaluate post-Covid impact on the business direction by factoring in all internal and external risks, and assessing those impacts on both client bases and supply chains.
– Plan to move forward not back.
– Readdress the company mission statement and vision. Can this still be achieved? Remember you can bend before breaking so it’s important to remain flexible.
– It is important to understand the emotional impact of the unknown. Crisis Communication plans should be aimed at reassuring all stakeholders – clients, supply chains, employees and shareholders.
– Workforce and work regime review. This is an opportunity to effect positive change and implement a forward thinking structure. Reward employees whose drive got you through this, rebuild trust with furloughed workers and if home working works, how can you capitalise and improve productivity management?
– Graduated Return to Work programmes. Is your workplace ready to take back employees and keep them safe with the correct distancing and prevention measures been put in place? Will they have all the tools and resources they need to survive and continue to operate effectively?
– Employer Liability landscape is yet to solidify. Has everything that could be done, been done or justifiably negated in compliance with change management plans?
– Review your crisis management and succession plans. Are they fit for purpose with members of your team trained and resourced to make decisions and keep the business operating
– Are you monitoring travel restrictions and how they differ from country and region? Do you understand how this travel risk can expose you to the new threat of coronavirus?
– Have you considered a table-top exercise to stress test likely scenarios pertinent to your operating context?
– Constantly think about protecting your business and assets you’ve currently got. Its integrity and function is core to surviving. Keep diligent with all correspondence, transactions and double-check the detail. Making mistakes when vulnerable will only compound the situation.
Navigating the new normal
Whilst change is inevitable, it’s not always welcome and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic should not be underestimated.
We often wish for change in the workplace but when it’s forced upon us it can have the opposite effect. It could mean a different role or responsibility, reporting structure or even change in location (home working). The feeling of isolation, disassociation and interactivity can reduce our motivation and output.
But we must also look for the benefits. Trying to rationalise may help you to not become overwhelmed and seek to prioritise your objectives. The clever use of technology and communication has made us all step up to the plate. Less time commuting means we aren’t so drained before and after work. Less distractions means you can focus on the areas that need to be sorted.
Productivity management tools will be invaluable in a decentralised workplace, but implementing Mission Command would require much less time monitoring productivity, and focus those resources managing success.
Useful principles for the private sector:
1. Provide clear commander’s intent. A mission statement will provide a crystal clear sense of purpose. A really good mission statement gives a unity of purpose that answers the ‘why’ of what needs doing needs doing and allows a prioritization of the task.
2. Build cohesive teams through mutual trust . Lead by example and reinforce company values through teamwork and mutual respect of subordinates, peers and management.
3. Create a shared understanding. Information sharing and delegate the task by conveying the importance of how each task fits into the bigger picture and why. Foster managerial trust by explaining all aspects of the plan, specifically who fits in where, so everyone understands who is doing what which will minimise any overlap in responsibilities.
4. Exercise disciplined initiative. Create and foster an accountability mindset that is supported by effective employee development programme.
5. Mission Orders. Set clear targets within concise procedures with simple control measures for any remaining grey areas.
6. Accept prudent risk. Assess and manage risk, don’t avoid it, and allocate supporting resources where required to help achieve success.
Preparing for the unexpected
The COVID-19 onslaught without doubt took us all by surprise. From politicians, business leaders to scientists, those few that made predictions went mostly unheard and the world went into a frenzied lockdown in relatively quick time.
Some organisations may have been ready, but the majority weren’t and whilst many companies may have coped well, others will have fallen at the first hurdle. What you do from now on is what counts. How can you learn, understand and prepare to be more resilient in future?
Unquestionably many organisations didn’t even have ‘pandemic’ listed on any risk register. Would having it on there now be a box ticking exercise or actually produce something of value? Would it help to reduce the likelihood and consequence of such a risk event in the future?
Armed with hindsight, all plans should now be revised to build in resilience/back-up plans as part of a core focus in light of the reviewed operating model, so that you can endure a blow but get straight back up again.
Start with that emergency slush fund or isolated untouched resource: the survival tin of tricks that can be brought to bear when you need it most. Consider your affiliation with other companies, mutual aid and cooperative response.
Think preparation, identify, mitigate, respond, recover and analyse.
What new contingencies would be appropriate for the next 6-12 months? What things do we all need to consider – after all there are many ways to skin a cat.
There’s an abundance of rights and wrongs flying around but having a contingency plan is a smart, proactive strategy which is different from a ‘crisis management plan’.
Ensure your business is set-up to deal proactively with events and applicable risks rather than simply react to them. In an unpredictable climate it’s essential to have a plan that will keep you successful in a turbulent marketplace.
Get something written down, ask others to help contribute and get their buy-in, then share it with your workforce so they appreciate method in your madness and thought behind the path you’re taking. But lastly, make sure you revisit and rehearse it – the need for flexibility and the willingness to change it remains key.
NGS Review Points
Based around world events, what has happened and what is likely to happen in the future, here are our recommendations for review points:
– Business risk – recessional impact both internal/external
– Government return to work advice
– Infection transmission and how to minimise
– Effective use of PPE – dos and don’ts
– Employer’s liability
– Litigation landscape post COVID-19
– Workforce risk (decentralised)
– Graduated return to work plans
– Plan review priorities
– Security and travel risk
– Journey management plans and providers
– Cyber risk
– Due diligence
– Productivity management
– Supply chain review