PAS 200:2011 describes a crisis as an “Inherently abnormal, unstable and complex situation that represents a threat to the strategic objectives, reputation or existence of an organization.”
The Covid-19 Pandemic is now a crisis impacting on governments, businesses, families and individuals globally. It is already well advanced with no end in sight at the time of writing.
The Covid-19 crisis has displayed classic characteristics whereby there was an element of surprise and dis-belief leading to a loss of control at all levels, with no obvious solutions and, in the early stages, events outpaced response. There was insufficient, and often conflicting, information and some key players adopted a siege mentality whereby the regular decision-making processes were disrupted.
It’s still not too late to get back on track and robust crisis management will ensure the best possible response to, and recovery from, the current pandemic. At the heart of this we are trying to protect our people first and foremost followed by our assets, reputations and our clients.
Crisis Management capability requires:
Awareness – Ongoing and continual threat identification and risk assessment, effective preparation and contingency planning and relentless information gathering
Readiness – Rapid notification and a SIMPLE escalation process with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and standing plans for contingencies
Leadership – The Crisis Management Team leader should correct levels of experience profile and authority, with a designated alternate should the leader become ill
Communication – Appropriate and timely communication and dissemination of information, clearly recorded and coordinated
The current situation we are in is a marathon not a sprint. The majority of employees are working from home for an indeterminate period of time, which involves added pressures to the traditional model – partners are also working from home, children being home schooled and needing re-assurance and support, worry about elderly or vulnerable family members, strain on home Wi-Fi and knock on effects regarding communications.
With the above in mind the key effort from management should be in sustaining and supporting your employees and their loved ones by regular communications (even if this means just virtual coffee breaks), team video conferences and calls.
Keep faith with your staff – they are your greatest ally (and if handled wrongly, worst enemy) – understand that their working day is no longer 9-5 and allow them to work to their own home routine, possibly starting earlier and then accommodating (and encouraging them) by re-assuring them that they can help their children with school work, sharing parenting responsibilities during the middle of the working day, and then returning to their work later in the day if necessary.
Once the crisis is over – and it will be – it is essential that organisations conduct a thorough review of their business continuity and crisis management procedures – what went well, what went wrong, lessons learned – and update plans where necessary.
An organisations crisis capability can only be enabled through training or experience and contingencies should be continually considered beyond the obvious implications. Be proactive and take the initiative at the earliest opportunity – don’t wait for things to get worse before taking action.