Part one of a two-part series
In order to be best prepared to recover from crises, organizations absolutely must prepare resiliency plans—plans specifically created with the intention of seeing you through a crisis and going back into business as usual with a minimum of trouble. Many crisis events can be predicted and planned for, allowing you to create step-by-step walk-throughs. From time to time, though, you will be in a situation that you had no way of predicting and which contains so many possible outcomes that you simply could not imagine all of them, much less create a specific plan to cope.
Unpredictable and unexpected crises
From short-term disruptions lasting just a few days to major events where the impact will be felt for weeks or months, it is almost impossible to pinpoint the specific impact that many events will have on any given business before they occur.
- An earthquake or tsunami, while a long term catastrophe for residents in the area, could have affects ranging from permanently disrupting a supply chain to a minor disruption lasting only a few days.
- Industrial disruption can be short lived or, as in last year’s LonMin crisis, can throw a wrench in a particular operation’s works for months.
- Quality control issues can be either short-term or damage yields for long periods. They can either be caught by your own internal inspectors and fixed on the spot, or make it out into public and spark months of troubles or reputation-threatening investigations.
- Terrorist actions may take out a critical capability for good or lead to quite a disruption, depending on their location and magnitude.
It’s also important to recognize that one operation’s disaster may be just a minor irritation for another. The specifics of every business, and indeed every individual location within an organization, mean that crises affect their operations in vastly different ways.
How do we plan if we don’t know what’s coming?
While normal operations and even anticipated disruptions can be proceduralized, when unanticipated events strike there is an important shift towards free-form teamwork and collaboration. This transition can be a subtle one as the business moves from standard process to accelerated and extended collaboration (incident management or crisis management), characterized by increased communication between participants and a focus on agility in response.
That’s not to say that you don’t create crisis management plans to deal with unpredictable or unanticipated events, but rather you must create several generic sets like “natural disasters” or “workplace violence” to cover broad spectrums of events, and then form them to the specific circumstances of each incident using the skills and brainpower at your disposal.
Follow the process
In order to maximize crisis resiliency, organizations need to have in place a phased process through which they can mobilize their response for crisis management.
- Detect – identify and alert the business to an event that may have a serious impact on business performance.
- Evaluate – evaluate the implications for the business in terms of scale and duration in order to guide decision making and response.
- Decide – determine the appropriate actions to guide the business through the event and speed recovery.
- Recover – mobilize the recovery actions that have been decided.
- Coordinate – coordinate the actions of all involved players, both inside and external to the business, directing the recovery.
- Monitor – monitor the recovery program to ensure that the situation moves from a status of ‘intensive care’ to ‘release to normal’.
If your monitoring shows that things aren’t moving smoothly back towards a state of “business as usual,” then it’s time to loop back to evaluation and start again with the knowledge that you’ve gained.