In our latest COVID-19 insights, Dynamiq CEO Jarrod Wilson looks at how organisations and their leaders have responded.
A plan is like a train. While it can give comfort, security, speed and confidence, it can also be inflexible and mono-directional.
The fact that it’s moving fast and has people on board doesn’t necessarily mean the right people are on board, nor does it mean the train is heading in the right direction.
In our fourth COVID insights, looking at corporate responses to the pandemic, we focus on the importance of planning and setting priorities during this type of response.
In our review of organisations responding to the disruption, we found the planning process is far more important than the plan itself because it provides an opportunity to re-prioritise resources quickly based on need.
The skills which enable organisations to respond effectively to disruptions are making effective plans, setting objectives, prioritising areas of response, allocating resources and providing support to those involved in the response. The skill that allows organisations to anticipate effectively as we move towards a new era after the first wave of COVID-19, is that of prioritising responses.
In the middle of a crisis response, regardless of the trigger, organisations must act quickly in accordance with the plan, and then again as the situation unfolds and develops. You must be prepared to re-prioritise and adapt to changes and opportunities with lightning speed and flexibility.
The following statements describe optimised organisations who had planned and practised responses to different scenarios:
- When responding to a disruption, planning is far more important than having a plan.
- Proactive and transparent communications take pressure off decision-makers.
- Focusing on maintaining business functions is more effective than addressing the disruption.
- Organisations with an established approach for managing disruptions are more likely to exploit opportunities during a wide-scale event.
This agility is demonstrated through the journey of the earliest activators to COVID-19. Those who activated their response early, prior to the announcement of the global pandemic, were able to proactively shift response priorities as the situation evolved – from supply chain issues, travel, health and safety of staff through to business continuity under very difficult and indeed mostly unpractised circumstances.
So – What did these organisations do? What were the results?
Optimised organisations had pre-identified triggers to act, using processes such as Trigger Action Response Plans, and practised these plans to ensure correct anticipation and response to issues. They set objectives, had prepared options in response to various scenarios. They spent a significant amount of time training and planning. However, when it came to the response, they were not tied to the plan. In anticipation of border closures for example, they were able to respond appropriately due to prior planning and preparation. They were quickly able to re-prioritise and mount an effective response.
Proactive organisations had set objectives and prepared options just prior to the pandemic being declared. They had a realistic approach to time spent in training. However, they weren’t necessarily focused on forward planning until announcements were made. For example, these organisations started to plan when announcements were made about borders closing but had not previously planned and practised what would happen next.
Reactive organisations activated too late. They followed a plan however the plan was not necessarily the right one. Teams were not agile, and the muscle memory of planning, prioritising and leadership under pressure was not previously tested. Reactive organisations, as the description implies, spent time responding to the existing situation, with little forward planning and anticipation.
We all know that a plan never survives the impact of reality. However, it’s the rigour of planning, the steps of the planning process, the ingraining of muscle memory and the ability to focus on the important rather than the urgent, which strengthens the plan and allows the confidence to re-prioritise as needed.
Even more than priority setting, the corporate knowledge to act as required when required and bring all necessary resources to bear on a specific issue, whilst still leaving other resources to continue to “drive the train”, is absolutely essential. This capacity is instilled during the planning process and is key to organisational survival.
What about your organisation? Is your plan taking you in the right direction? Have you got the right people on the train? Or, are you still reacting to changes along the way?
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