In response to the Coronavirus business leaders may be finding themselves in one of three situations:
- Already in a declared emergency, incident or crisis
- Not in a declared emergency, incident or crisis but expecting to be in one very soon
- Recognising the need to build resilience and be prepared for an emergency or crisis in the coming weeks or months
1. Already in a declared emergency, incident or crisis?
Business leaders who are already in a declared crisis can use the 7-step process below.
The process is used by organisations in critical infrastructure industries including; aviation, banking and finance, energy, insurance, transport and water. It is designed to:
- Enable team-based critical thinking
- Drive actions and outcomes
- Enable an adaptive capacity to deal with changing circumstances
- Provide assurance to key stakeholders
The value of using the 7-steps is that provides rigor in the decision making and allows everyone in the team to go at the same pace through ‘critical decision points’ and to develop contingency plans.
Step 1 – Determine if the ‘situation’ is internal or external. External may be a Government directive, internal may be supply chain issues.
Step 2 –Ensure the right people are in the room with a cross-section of experience from across the business, to fully understand the impacts. Bring specialist expertise in if you need to. IE: COVID-19 specific expertise.
Step 3 – The team need to separate out the facts and assumptions. Internal facts related to the current impacts need to be provided to the team and external facts need to come from trusted sources and include Government directives. The team may receive written or verbal briefings on the facts and communication should be succinct and without ambiguity.
Assumptions need to be captured as they may be used to inform decision making if information is incomplete.
Before going onto the next step the team need to reach consensus on the ‘main issue’.
Step 4 – The team should consider most likely, best-case and worst-case outcomes and be prepared for a range of potential scenarios.
Step 5 – The most likely and worst-case scenarios need to be considered across a range of impact areas specific to the organisation including: people; operations; supply-chain; strategy; financial, reputation etc. This should be done exhaustively to manage all risks.
Step 6 – This step is the opportunity to distil the information into an agreed list of actions to be completed now and later and this helps the team to prioritise.
Step 7 – The final step is the communications strategy which should consider all stakeholder groups, internal and external and the best ways to communicate.
Following these steps gives the team a ‘common operating picture’ from where they can make decisions.
The output of this process should be a Situation Report (Sitrep) which should underpin the overall communications response strategy.
If there is insufficient data from across the business to inform decision-making, other teams may need to meet and follow this process. Teams can meet hourly, daily or weekly depending on the situation. Teams should all use the Sitrep process to share information within the organisation.
Communicating well, even if the news is not ideal, can provide assurance and build confidence.
2. Preparing for an emergency, incident or crisis?
The 7-step process can also be used in scenarios where the organisation is not in a crisis but needs to be prepared for one. In these situations, teams have more time to gather and verify data and to spend more time developing contingency plans.
This structure can be used to manage a range of emerging threats including operational; strategic; financial and reputation, global, environmental and political.
The process would be the same 7-steps as the team would during a crisis, but the output would be more related to planning and contingency plans rather than a Situation Report (Sitrep).
3. Building resilience and preparing for an emergency or crisis that may last weeks or months?
For organisations who recognise the need to build the capability to respond to a range of potential cascading threats to the organisation over a longer period, we recommend:
- A three-tier response model of Emergency, Incident and Crisis teams
- Clarity on roles and responsibilities of the team members
- Guidelines on the criteria to activate the teams
- Notification and escalation process
- Scenario based activities to test processes and develop capability
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A Quick Reference Guide can be developed for team members to be used as an aide memoire. The Quick Reference Guide includes the 7-step process which is used alongside the three-tier response framework.
The value of using the 7-step process
The seven-step process draws upon a combination of strategic and critical thinking skills from teams and provides thought diversity in problem solving.
The tool is designed to help senior executives through critical decision points when there is incomplete or conflicting information, high levels of scrutiny, consequences and compressed timeframes.
The value of using the tool is having a structured and intuitive process that is oriented to drive action. It is used to:
> Build a shared view of the risk and opportunities
> Challenge assumptions and uncover blindspots
> Provide a more robust and objective approach to decision making
> Develop contingency plans for a range of potential scenarios
> Enable a more adaptive capacity to deal with change
The process gives teams the agility across all three of these scenarios and enables an adaptive capacity to respond to a range of changing circumstances.
For example: On Monday a team may find themselves in a declared crisis and by Friday be in scenario where the immediate threat has passed. Or they may be in scenario where there is no imminent threat on Monday and by Friday they are in a crisis.
Using the 7-steps helps organisations to become more resilient for a range of potential threats in the longer term, not just Coronavirus.