You can’t hope your way out of a hurricane. Neither can you expect yourself out of a pandemic, civil unrest, a failure of your company’s quality assurance protocols, or an unexpected leadership team change? However, you can make plans.
This might seem like common sense. But if it is, then why do so many organizations rely on hope instead of a crisis strategy plan? This is a serious enough issue that the White House designated September 2021 as National Preparedness Month (A Proclamation on National Preparedness Month, 2021 | The White House).
The need for crisis planning and preparedness has never seemed more necessary. President Biden’s 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”
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Here are three things your organization can do right away to build a crisis strategy plan:
The array of potential crises can sometimes seem overwhelming, requiring you to anticipate every possible event from a financial meltdown to zombies.
One way to manage that sense of being overwhelmed is to narrow the scope of what you are planning for. You can do this by identifying the most important things to your organization and then asking yourself what you would do if the status quo were disrupted.
For example, does your business rely on a workforce of 500 people showing up every day? What would you do if 30 percent of your workforce is out sick for two weeks?
How important is cash flow to your operations? What will you do if lenders lose confidence in you? What would you do if you were suddenly denied access to your CRM system and other customer data?
Continuing operations plans don’t have to be complex. The best plans are relatively simple to be used quickly and effectively. But your preparations must answer the “what if?” question.
If you don’t have formal crisis plans in place already, now is an excellent time to start. And as you develop these plans, don’t forget to include communications with your stakeholders.
If an event disrupts your ability to meet your obligations or threatens your brand’s reputation, you need to let those affected know what is happening from your perspective. You can reassure many of them by letting them know you’ve thought about this possibility and have a plan in place that you are executing.
Finally, you won’t be genuinely prepared for disruptions unless you practice your plan. Schedule a table-top drill at least every six months or before periods when you might be especially vulnerable, such as before tornado or hurricane seasons or before you complete a significant transaction. Make sure your backup systems operate the way you expect them to. Make sure your call trees and alternate databases are up to date.
It’s not possible to be prepared for every contingency. However, giving thought at least to your most significant vulnerabilities will add resilience to your organization. And in a time of pandemics, climate change, civil unrest, and political uncertainty, strength has never been more critical.
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