In our third COVID-19 insights, Dynamiq CEO Jarrod Wilson looks at the importance of having a common approach for optimising responses to disruptive events.

Establishing a common approach for managing disruptions is best done before a disruption and not during.

We reviewed more than 30 organisations and it’s clear from our data, those with a commonly understood approach for responding to disruptions, who practised that approach, engaged with stakeholders during training, and regularly reviewed their own capability are leading the pack in terms of their management of COVID-19 restrictions and the many trickle-down consequences.

Having a common approach is essential. It ensures compliance and builds internal confidence. It assures external stakeholders like investors, insurers, suppliers, and local neighbours. It also provides the foundation upon which the organisation can be agile and flexible when responding.

A common approach can also be described as a ‘sporting’ approach. Whilst the specifics of a game may change, the approach remains the same. That is, there is a defined area to play the game, with boundaries and signposts. Goals are clearly identified. The rules are understood by all, and we have people assigned to check compliance with the rules. Managers and leaders, on-field and off-field are appointed and trained to react at different times and to identify and seize opportunities at the right times.

As is the case in crisis management, the majority of arrangements are in place before ‘the game’ or disruption event. The team structure, talent identification, team rules, and even set-plays. These arrangements are then practiced (training) to hone skills and foster team-work, cooperation and trust. Practice matches (exercises) are then used to test the arrangements and make final adjustments before match day. The difference being that the match details aren’t known. In fact, we can’t even be confident we know or understand the opposition.

Without a pre-arranged and common approach, organisations must try to arrange themselves with the added pressure of the event. Something akin to meeting your team mates for the first time as you’re running out for a grand final. A complex or rapidly changing situation will only exacerbate weak arrangements and fracture under-rehearsed teams, just as they do for poorly prepared sporting teams. Conversely, well-rehearsed teams build in confidence, as they contain the event then become increasingly proactive in planning their recovery.

So how did those 30 organisations go? Overall, we synthesised their corporate COVID-19 responses into three broad categories:

Optimised – these organisations were well practised before the event and had linked multi-disciplinary and multi-complexity training and exercises across sites, regions and management teams. An in-depth review of their “training versus actual” event responses over 3 – 5 years show a high investment in training, with at least 80 per cent of events within the organisation being training events not actual disruptions.

With this level of training commitment, these organisations had established and practised trust relationships across teams and responded to complex issues in a deliberate and methodical manner. They had detailed Business Continuity, and Crisis Management plans which everyone understood and had practised many times, across all levels. In addition, they tested complex problems and indeed measured individual, team and business unit responses to those problems. When the impact of COVID-19 escalated, they immediately shifted focus to implement plans, and working groups and specialist teams were quickly able to start the recovery planning process. Optimised organisations have the capacity to seize opportunity and act when needed because all resources are not allocated to survival mode.

Proactive – proactive companies took steps to establish a common approach to managing significant business disruptions but hadn’t yet practised that approach by undertaking rigorous testing exercises. They were able to quickly move to detailed Business Continuity and Crisis Management Plans, albeit with a slight delay and perhaps with slightly less productivity, however the appropriate structures were in place with everyone having been trained utilising a common approach across all management levels and with various complexities.

Looking at proactive organisations over a 3 – 5 year period, those who had conducted training reacted quickly and for the most case appropriately. However, where truly complex, multi-level problems had not been tested, the COVID-19 response was more of a challenge.

Reactive – these organisations had not defined nor practised a common approach for managing disruptions or significant events. Most of these organisations have only ever undertaken training for compliance purposes so when their capacity to respond to complex problems on various levels was tested, they either reacted to the implications as they arose or simply became overwhelmed and failed. Productivity plummeted as senior leadership teams pondered what to do next. Those who managed to react with some effect, scrambled to establish systems for longer-term survival and in some cases are still establishing an approach and playing catch up in terms of addressing the broader implications of the event. In this case business stands to lose in all areas – reputation, revenue, top and bottom line, staff and resources and assets, the confidence of stakeholders and regulators. The mild annoyance of training to test the team and develop the approach is far less than the cost of loss of operating licences.

We’ve used a sporting analogy to illustrate the importance of establishing a ‘common approach’ for responding to crisis or emergency events. The importance of a ‘common approach’ has also become apparent to many businesses that have both thrived and struggled through their response to COVID19 restrictions. It describes an organisation that swings quickly into action, maintaining and or saving people, reputation and the top and bottom line of an organisation. It gives stakeholders and regulators confidence in the system and the capacity of the organisation to lead its way through the crisis.

If your organisation entered the recent pandemic underprepared, perhaps now is the time to review your recent response, and introduce a lasting ‘approach’ for managing the many disruption events that could affect your business.

Contact us to discuss your organisation.

Watch a COVID-19 recovery planning webinar.

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