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Is your COVID-19 response strategy still on course? Five key “rapid-fire review” questions you need to keep asking…

Is your COVID-19 response strategy still on course? Five key “rapid-fire review” questions you need to keep asking…

For all of us, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will require not only tenacity, commitment and courage, but also the ability to maintain focus as the situation continues to evolve around us.

No matter which stage we’ve reached in the crisis lifecycle, no matter how frenetic our response activities, it’s vital to keep checking progress towards our intended destination in case we’ve been blown off course or lost sight of the horizon.

Review is an incredibly important asset in the crisis management toolkit, but it’s often overlooked or used unskilfully. The good practice of undertaking a post-crisis review may be widely acknowledged, but it’s far from universally followed. Even less well known — and arguably much more important — is the concept of holding regular rapid-fire reviews throughout our crisis response to help us:

  • be clear on the facts – and how these may be changing
  • understand what is working well – and what isn’t
  • consider the wider business implications – both risks and growth opportunities

Crucially, regular reviews can help remind all crisis management teams that, in addition to managing the day-to-day tactical activities, strategic implications should also be considered.

Right now, all organisations are several weeks into some form of COVID-19 crisis response. Crisis teams already will have learned lots and improved their capabilities. Now is the ideal time to hold a rapid-fire review of the situation.

In recent days we’ve been advising our clients to work through the five areas below to keep the crisis response on track and aid recovery.

1. What are the facts?

  • What do we know (or think we know) about the evolving situation?
  • What additional information is needed to fully understand the business impact of the crisis, and how will we find it?
  • Do we have the correct context and tools for decision-making, insight-gathering and planning next actions?
  • What response steps have been taken and have they delivered the results we intended (both in terms of emotional and practical aspects)?
  • What can we learn from the way our peers and competitors have responded?

2. What has changed since our last review (internally and externally)?

  • How would we characterise morale, mood and culture at both operational and corporate levels, and how does this contrast with business as usual?
  • How do current operational challenges compare with those during business as usual?
    • Are there any ‘routine’ activities (e.g. audit, maintenance, health and safety) that are being neglected due to shortage of personnel or resources?
    • Have any incidents or near misses occurred as the result of working under such pressure?
    • Are there any new opportunities / risks to address? Does our corporate risk register adequately address these or does it need revisiting?
  • Since experts remain uncertain in their forecasting, have we made enough use of scenario planning to examine best and worst cases?
    • Are our scenarios still appropriate, and does strategy need to be revised?

3. Who are our key stakeholders and is our engagement and messaging effective?

  • Which of our stakeholder groups have been most affected by the crisis, or could be most helpful in the recovery?
    • Has this profile of stakeholders changed since the response strategy was set?
  • How frequently have we communicated with key stakeholder groups?
    • How do we verify that our messages are relevant, purposeful and clear for each group? Does anything need adapting?
    • Is the leadership team sufficiently visible to key stakeholders?
    • Have we done enough to demonstrate strong leadership?
    • Have we stayed true to our organisational values?
  • What have we done to demonstrate expertise others didn’t know we possessed, shown our ‘human’ side and support for those impacted?

4. What is working well and what learnings can be captured for the future?

  • How helpful have we found our crisis and business continuity plans?
    • What improvements should be made now to make them more helpful/insightful?
    • What new resources and/or ways of working should be captured and implemented in future to make our crisis response more robust?
  • What do we like about how our organisation has adapted to manage this situation?
    • What would we like to retain as things return to business as usual?
  • Are we looking after our people?
    • Is anyone under too much pressure?
    • Who has excelled themselves in dealing with this?

5. What did success look like when we set our COVID-19 response strategy?

  • Are we on track, or do we need a reset?
  • Are investors/backers/donors still supporting our financial security?
    • What must we do to ensure they will still be with us when the recovery starts?
  • What would we do differently next time?

During the COVID-19 crisis, Instinctif Partners stands ready to support and enhance all organisations’ communications activities, operational risk management and business continuity implementation—including the expert facilitation of crisis review meetings as required.

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