COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Resilience tips and resources #3

Rob WalleyCOVID-19, Resilience

Are you positively mapping the way forward yet?

The traditional Easter feeling of positivity and optimism for spring has been hard to maintain this year. However the individuals and businesses that are coming out strongly are focussing on planning and mapping out various paths out of this crisis. As we reflect as a business our rapid adjustment to the challenges and having completed month one of COVID-19 management support for a number of clients we have compiled some of the most useful and positive learning here that is helping our businesses and clients to respond efficiently, survive and plan for the next few months. Ensure your Crisis and Recovery meeting structure is efficient and well informed: Having spent much of the last month establishing and supporting Crisis teams in different organisations, we have identified seven lessons:

  1. Cycle Chairs and departmental leads to reduce fatigue and dependence on individuals. Where possible use appropriate managers who are under less operational pressure.
  2. Time invested in defining a brief overall strategy and objectives unifies and focuses effort; this should be reviewed regularly. Often groups feel coordinated but when probed are working from different assumptions, overlaps and varying appreciations of the issues and tasks.
  3. Establish information reporting processes to increase efficiency and automation e.g. staffing impact, departmental/country reporting. This improves meeting efficiency so you can focus on the ‘so what and what next.’
  4. Sequence meetings on a ‘little and often’ basis so your decision inputs are current and timed around the cycle of Government updates.
  5. Use Crisis meetings to identify challenges but don’t try to solve them in one session; sub groups can be established quickly with the right expertise.
  6. Maintain a log (we would say that as a Log provider!); the decisions, rationale and supporting information picture need to be efficiently shared amongst an array of authoritative and other information sources. However high or low tech your system – your information hub needs to contain authoritative, relevant and timely information, informed by appropriate expertise. This is key for efficiency now and for debriefing this phase of the pandemic.
  7. Develop and deliver communications against a stakeholder matrix with a single point of contact responsible for the message, means and audience(s). This role should include establishing the frequency, points of contact and nature of each internal and external audience.

Focus on gaining a perspective and establishing planning conditions

An enduring crisis poses very different challenges to more routine incidents or crises which usually affect us individually and our immediate business environment but not wider society, our peers, suppliers, competitors not to mention family and friends. The unprecedented scale, duration and impact of the crisis is exponentially worsened by the lack of certainty on the duration of lock down measures and immediate business impact across most supply chains and organisations. The lack of a date for projects and events to re-commence all create a vacuum of uncertainty, dis-empowerment for both Managers and Staff. This creates an unsettling environment within which leadership decision making necessarily becomes short sighted to survive the short term turbulence. Long term certainty and sources of reassurance are scarce which makes it difficult to confidently envisage medium to long term objectives. The lack of certainty is definitely impacting upon morale and optimism by both managers and staff. We suggest focusing on three areas:

  1. Accepting and discussing the challenges is an important mitigation here and focussing on short term goals and targets; this builds a positive sense of organisation and structure.
  2. Communications should be sequenced around the schedule of government announcements to ensure your approach is consistent with lock down arrangements.
  3. Keep your communications brief, regular, personalised and agile to react to emerging guidance

Technical communications

Most organisations now operating in a very different way and for a sustained period and communications has proved to be one of the greatest challenges – at both technical and human levels. Technical challenges have arisen from the upsurge in home working, dependence on home internet connections with inherent security and data protection challenges:

  • Develop layers of resilience and diversity: re-purpose accounts and equipment to critical elements of the business, consider strengthening the resilience of home internet for key people (ranging from 4G backup to establishing a diverse connection from another provider).
  • Data and information security should be a key consideration as cyber attacks are exploiting the current crisis and systems such as Zoom and our home internet connections need to be secure.

Mapping the way forward

The businesses that we are seeing as leading recovery in the current environment are adjusting rapidly to the new economic situation. Key activities in their circumstances have involved:

  • Cutting back unprofitable/unnecessary activities
  • Delivering new services in an ethical and considerate way
  • Listing critical activities (in the current environment) and delivering these to an acceptable and sustainable level.
  • Strengthening communications and relationships
  • Where staffing impact (illness, other absences, furlough etc) reduces your personnel resilience, focus on centres of expertise that are critical; cultivate and maintain staff – consider cross training and cycling different staff through roles and part time working.