What to prepare for next: Covid-19 and business planning
The UK has now moved from a “delay” to “suppression” phase in its attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.
As the Government ramps up its response to COVID-19 it seems likely that London may be put on some form of lockdown over the coming days, with new measures put in place to ensure people stay at home and reduce the people-to-people spread of the virus.
The usual crisis mantra of “prepare, adapt, respond, recover” is now being challenged as never before. COVID-19 will prove to be one of the most complex crises that mankind has experienced for generations, and the challenges facing the UK – and the rest of the world – will evolve and change as the weeks pass.
The UK has the benefit of being able to see what the future of COVID-19 holds by looking abroad – to mainland Europe and further East, to countries that are two days, one week, or one month ahead of the UK’s trajectory.
Organisations should not be planning for the UK to be able to buck the trend and contain the virus imminently, but instead focussing on making sure that they are prepared for what is yet to come.
Over the next two days, organisations should be actively and quickly planning ahead. Three key areas of business planning should include:
- Make sure your business is agile and responsive. Right now, most organisations are busy planning their response to the “known unknowns” of what lies ahead. But for many, it will be the “unknown unknowns” that will provide the greatest challenge in the coming weeks. Instead of spending time risk-mapping all unknown risks, organisations should now be focussing on building organisational resilience, building in measures to protect a minimum level of capacity in core services, exploring partnerships and ensuring external support can be drawn on if necessary. Creating an agile and responsive business will ensure that your organisation can react quickly, when it’s most needed.
- Empower people to make decisions. For some customer or community facing organisations like housing associations, retirement living schemes, retailers, and local authorities, front-line staff will have the clearest sight of the real challenges facing your customers and communities. Some problems will prove easy to put right, and the quick thinking and actions of empowered staff will provide the right response and reassurance that people need.
- Be ready for the good news, and support it where you can. The media and news cycle for the next few weeks are going to be dominated by the negative story of the virus as it escalates, and the impact it will have on businesses, communities and families. But amongst the bad news will come glimmers of light and “headlines of hope”. These news stories will show people doing extraordinary things and businesses going out of their way to help their local community, the emergency services or key workers. If your organisation is able to support either the national or local response, or play any small part in providing local support, don’t be shy to do so. When the virus has long past and lives have returned to normal, your community, customers and stakeholders will remember those who stepped in when others couldn’t.