We’re now several weeks into quarantine during the COVID-19 crisis. As we all settle into new rhythms, we’ve started to wonder about the future. How will our businesses survive? What will they look like when the dust settles? Will there be any continuity for us, or will we be left talking about the world “before COVID”?
Professor Laurence Barton literally wrote the book on crisis, business continuity, and living into the future. Today, we’re taking a (literal) page out of his book (page 321, to be exact) and giving you some ways to keep it together in the coming months. While much of Barton’s work focuses on the crucial first 8 hours of a crisis, we’ve adapted a few of his lessons for the “new normal” of our present waiting game. If you and your teams–remote or not–put some thought into Barton’s Ten Pillars of Business Continuity, you’ll be far better equipped for the world to come after quarantine.
Barton’s Ten Pillars of Business Continuity (adapted for COVID-19 Quarantine):
Prioritize fast, personal communication with your people and your customers. There is no over-communication during a crisis. While you’ll want to have some ready copy on-hand, never lean on mass messaging when you have the time and energy for personal contact.
Be crystal clear about your expectations for your people, and use every possible channel to communicate those expectations. Foster as much normalcy as possible for your remote workers, and bear the burden of creating a predictable work environment as you’re able. Be ready to deal with crazy situations that may arise from all the change.
Take this opportunity to backup critical data. This will not only help your remote workers, it will also help preserve your operations if something goes wrong.
Delegate your money issues. Authorize your finance department to continue salary and benefits, per senior management. Consider union issues as they come up. Authorize someone to purchase or reimburse equipment, cleaning supplies, consulting services, and anything else necessary to accelerate business resumption or adaptation. Keep contact with your insurers; document losses and monitor recovery costs. Have this information ready when applying for loans and relief funds.
Quash rumors before they spread, and keep policy contradictions to a minimum. Consider appointing one spokesperson who will articulate the company’s ongoing relationship to the crisis.
Make provisions for group and individual counseling for your people as they weather the pandemic.
Offer updates to key leaders, investors, and regulators three (3) times a week about progress, pending issues, and timetables for next milestones. Be honest, realistic, and confident in your assessment.
Keep contact with vendors and key suppliers whose deliveries keep you going and will accelerate your recovery. If contracts and expectations must be adjusted, be up-front about this as soon as possible and minimize surprises. Be candid, patient, and empathetic given that this crisis is affecting everyone. Having done your due diligence, however, be emphatic with critical third parties who violate service contracts that you expect them to comply with actual needs.
Even after officials state that the COVID-19 danger has passed, conduct scenario testing on your organization before you declare the crisis over for you and resume “business as usual.” Until then, prepare a multi-tiered return to normalcy that you can implement as soon as the all-clear is give, avoiding further operations and opportunity costs.
Conduct a detailed post-crisis assessment. How are you preparing for recovery? What successes have you enjoyed despite the pandemic? What system failures have you endured, and what opportunities do you see to improve? Be specific about accountability, and reward the heroes who exceeded your expectations.