COVID-19 and Business Continuity: Is Your Plan Ready or Not?

By: | March 25, 2020

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

I am writing this column in the midst of our global COVID-19 nightmare. By now, your pre-designed continuity plans have gone live and are operational to varying degrees of success.

But honestly, many of us never imagined requiring a continuity plan for something this pernicious. And many of us have never executed any continuity plan at all. This means many of us must be simply winging it and hoping for the best.

In my risk management career, I have experienced a few continuity plans that went live, all triggered for different reasons. These unique opportunities afforded me the chance to learn valuable lessons from these business disruptions that go beyond logistical planning steps that we typically see in continuity plans.

First lesson I learned — your business likely will be forever changed and operate differently when the crisis passes. But know that this could be a good thing.

Second, because you are now operating differently, you should retool your corporate objectives to suit your new business reality.

Do not let being perfect be the enemy of what is possible. Every corporate continuity plan is imperfect. Survival measures get messy.

It is imperative you set revised organizational goals that are designed for the long-term and lead your organization accordingly. Consider revisiting your organizational vision and mission. Is survival your new strategic goal? Is retooling your new purpose?

Third, your organization’s new direction must be swiftly shared with your employees. You may think this is insane under the pace of the crisis, but it will pay off in the long run. As leaders, we need to provide a sense of continuity especially when people are feeling scared and lost.

Your employees need to know what it means to succeed in the organization under this new reality. Design a new scorecard for the new reality. Describe new targets and risk tolerances and make known the repercussions of non-compliance.

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Without the guidance of a new measuring stick, it can promote paralysis, contempt, defection or worse.

Fourth, do not let being perfect be the enemy of what is possible. Every corporate continuity plan is imperfect. Survival measures get messy.

We build corporate resiliency by building dexterous problem-solving and triage teams. Their sole goal is to be empowered to tackle and resource solutions to problems that come their way.

The definition of “success” in a crisis requires you only to be better than your competition.

Lastly, every major interruption event tends to last longer than whatever had been imagined. Business interruptions, especially chaotic ones like the one we are living through, are exhausting.

Chief Executive Officers must now see themselves as also the Chief Human. Good CEOs know the value of building good morale, cultures and goodwill during normal times.

In crisis, goodwill is a precious commodity and needs to be used wisely. We must recognize that a continuity plan is a wobbly “MacGyver-ed” plan designed often for much shorter durations.

If stretched, these plans start to teeter daily towards breakdown. As such, we must be mindful of fatigue and watchful for talent.

Crises can shine spotlights on unrealized talent and businesses need to allow them to shine. Our character become evident like tea; only after being dipped in hot water do we know our true strength. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]