This one, the COVID-19 crisis, does not respect individuals or borders, and is damaging societies throughout the world. But we know that the way in which humanity has responded does mean that we are now better equipped to understand the lessons of this through our handling, and what we can do better in the future.
Our approach in times of calm is to help people review how equipped they are to deal with unexpected events, help them to respond effectively based on the planning undertaken, and then again review the learnings as they recover from the crisis. So what does this mean in practice in relation to COVID-19?
Preparation is everything in the review phase. Have we assessed all our risks (including pandemics), have we prepared our plan/playbook, do we know and have mapped all our stakeholders, have we assigned roles/responsibilities, have we stress tested those, have we scenario planned to know how this will mutate from minute one to the end, and have we undertaken simulations to test all of our preparation? This crisis has shown how virtual decision taking has been critical for business; reviewing technology capabilities is a vital component of being prepared, as this period has shown. Our take, so far, on the pandemic is that many of us were not as prepared as we could have been.
So good planning should lead to a more effective response. When people and places are dislocated as has happened in this crisis, then process and planning is critical. Teams on WhatsApp groups, initial and ongoing calls through Zoom and Teams, and plans that are accessible via mobiles are absolutes. Crises of course distort good planning, as the unexpected occurs – emergency services stretched and can’t help, travel forbidden, supply chains disrupted – so the rigour of the preparation will determine your flexibility when tested like this. And learn as you go along. The best teams include personnel constantly monitoring across all channels not just providing updates on ‘what to do’ but based on insight, planning ahead for the crisis mutations that will happen.
And as you recover you review everything and learn all over again. This new normal we are entering enables us to build greater resilience based on how ready we were, and how we responded. It may be different again in the future, but the past can determine the future. We’re not through this, but we need to begin this process now.
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Ralph is a Director and Partner at Lansons. He has over 30 years consulting experience covering reputation management, corporate communications, and public policy advice in many business areas. His experience spans advice to Boards and senior teams in a variety of sectors including financial services, energy, pharmaceutical, chemicals, manufacturing, and retail. In financial services alone he has advised clients in asset management, pensions, retail and commercial banking, private banking, and insurance.
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