This week Charlie discusses why we are entering the most dangerous period of coronavirus for many businesses.
In the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak, everyone was ‘in it together’ and people understood why organisations were not able to deliver their services or be available to their customers. The lockdown was on government decree and there was little choice but to close down for most businesses. Although some organisations were able to push the definition of what was an essential service, most organisations had no choice but to comply with government guidance and close down. The mutual understanding between organisations and their customers that these were 'unprecedented times' created a sense of comradery between them and allow for a temporary non-delivery of their services.
With lockdown easing there is now an increased opportunity to re-open for business. But as the rules become more complex than 'stay at home and protect the NHS', there will be an increase in businesses interpreting the rules in their own way. This will lead to similar organisations deciding to deliver their services in different ways and at different levels. Tied into this is lockdown fatigue, where people feel that they have made their sacrifice and now they deserve to carry out the activities that have been delayed for several months and are starting to bend the rules to best suit their situation. Mixed into this is the current economic climate with people losing their jobs, organisations going bankrupt, and further impacts on supply chains as localised lockdowns are being introduced.
Managing an incident is fairly easy when you are all in the same boat, the government is telling you what to do and your options are very limited. Now there is a situation where it could be just your organisation which is having an incident, either through failure to deliver products and services, non compliance with COVID-19 rules, financial issues, or you have a business continuity incident at the same time. When it is just your organisation having the incident then it is important that it is well managed so that you haven't just survived coronavirus to then suffer again or close due to another incident.
As now is the most dangerous time of this pandemic, I suggest you carry out the following list of actions to ensure that you identify early and successfully manage any incident:
1. Those who have been managing your response to date will be tired, especially if they have been managing it from the beginning of the incident. First off give them a weeks holiday (perhaps outside their holiday allowance) and cut them off from day to day management to let them relax. If all your key staff have been working on the response then rotate the time off, but make sure they take a break soon.
2. For the response going forward you can use a 2-team response. One team will continue to manage the COVID-19 response and oversee the implementation of the new measures to keep staff and customers safe, while the other team manage the day job and make sure that all the basic functions of the organisation keep going. They will make sure that all the small things that may have been forgotten are done, such as updating timesheets, entering information into CRM systems, carrying out appraisals and setting targets.
3. Review your risks again. Where are you vulnerable and what else could happen? Take a 360 degree view of risk to look at what could cause your organisation to not deliver but also what external events could impact your organisation.
4. Review your communications to date and decide if your communications need to be adapted as you enter this phase of the response.
5. Look again at how you escalate your response if a new incident occurred. Do you have separate team to deal with this or do you add to the role of your team dealing with coronavirus?
6. If there is another lockdown in your area how will your organisation cope with it? Have you learned lessons from the first lockdown and would you implement the same plans again? What worked during the first lockdown and what didn't?
7. There are lots of rules and regulations on social distancing in offices, but what precautions are you taking to ensure that if one member of staff has to self isolate that all members of staff in the same office or team don’t have to self isolate as well.
8. Lastly, look for opportunity. This could be at an internal delivery level, coronavirus might be an opportunity to change the way you deliver business continuity. So don't be scared to ask for additional training to re-engage with senior managers. At an organisational level, there might be the opportunity to gain market share, buy one of your rivals, reconfigure your business and make internal changes, or re-engage with your stakeholders.
We are entering a new phase of the COVID-19 response and as the rules relax there is a much greater chance for one organisation to have a localised incident, rather than a blanket event which affects all organisations similarly. So although there is some response fatigue out there, it has never been more important to ‘double down’ on your readiness to identify and monitor your risks and prepare your response.