Wednesday, 29 April 2020
Rule 1: It is NOT preparing for ‘business as usual’ in a crisis – if it were, there would be no need for a plan.
Rule 2: It’s all about the objectives.
Crisis or no crisis, all businesses should live and die by their objectives; what are we trying to achieve and why? If we can’t answer that then we can’t know if we are succeeding or failing. So, from the outset there must be clear objectives and, yes I know it is old, but the SMART concept is still valid. What is wrong with having business objectives that are ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound’? Or some similar version thereof. Personally, I think we should add an E in there somewhere, for ethical. And you might not be able to satisfy every single one in every objective but it is a good starting point.
Once our goals are clear we can identify that anything which could adversely affect the ability to achieve them is a threat which we must have a plan to counter. Anything that does not is of no interest whatsoever, however bad it might otherwise be, and should be ignored. Straightaway we have focused our attention and our resources onto the things that matter and not wasted them on things that do not.
Rule 3: Have a plan.
This is when you need some first rate pessimists. The business continuity plan consists of protecting as much of the suite of objectives as possible against the increased threat level presented by any conceivable crisis. Which objectives can be postponed? The T element extended? Can others be scaled back but still maintained in essence? Is there a plan to review the objectives in light of the new threat level? Must some objectives be abandoned because the achievable A element or the relevant R no longer exist? And this may be where the ethical E becomes important – how do we manage our social responsibility values in a crisis? If they can be ignored when times are tough they are not really values at all…
A footnote on objectives:
A popular corporate objective these days is ‘Zero harm’. The best definition of harm I have seen comes I think from the old Warsaw Convention and states: ‘Loss or damage to property, injury or death to persons’ or something like that. Nowadays I would add the environment in there too. Is this ‘achievable’ in many of today’s industries? Probably not but especially when it comes to lives and health, zero is the only goal we can have. No company is going to have an objective of just maiming two people this year, although that may be what they mean!