Contingency Planning – At The Highest Level

Well, here we are. In the USA, we are at the beginning of an unprecedented event in our lives: the pandemic COVID-19.

A key phrase I heard (which is definitely ringing true): Life as we know it will change.

Again, it has only begun!

Next, the country will move more towards ensuring critical services (emergency response, healthcare workers, grocery stores and gas stations) remain available, while at the same time a complete lockdown is considered.

If this isn’t real to you yet, it is about to become VERY real.

At this juncture, there is no time for, or benefit from, spending ANY energy laying blame or politicizing this situation as nearly the entire planet is in the same boat.

Instead, let’s do what we can (which is a LOT) to minimize the spread of the virus and the socioeconomic impact that WILL be felt far beyond the event itself.

I shan’t cover what has been said repeatedly during White House briefings and other communications about personal hygiene and social distancing. And, if you haven’t been watching the White House briefings, (hearing things from the horse’s mouth) you are getting critical information 3rd hand, spun by the media, resulting in confusion (even panic) as to the true state of affairs.

The next scheduled White House briefing is at 3:30pm Eastern. Tune in!

A critical resource I’d highly recommend staying on top of is the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which you can view by clicking here. This is sound guidance for all of us to heed – as individuals.

Now, to business. And, I’m not sharing this to ensure companies remain profitable. I am sharing this to ensure companies remain VIABLE.

Said another way, if drastic measures are not taken NOW there are companies which will not make it, resulting in shuttered employees as well as the loss of the important products and services manufactured and/or distributed by these firms.

The most critically important are those companies which provide products and services CRUCIAL to society, to ensure they continue to do just that (as the TOP PRIORITY) ahead of any other initiatives.

To achieve the above, there is a key guiding principle that must be adhered to:

Production MUST Prevail

This, to the exclusion of ALL other / non-essential activities.

To support this, a very clear message must be delivered “from the top” that the number one priority is to ensure all resources understand the importance of this mission critical goal (production must prevail) and that any activity that would impact this should take a back seat.

So, what is a company / leader to do?

Following are practical steps that can be taken to plan, prepare and execute accordingly.

  • Identify mission critical:
    • Processes – What are the key processes needed for Production to Prevail?
    • Personnel – Who are the key personnel?
    • Resources – What are the key resources?
      • Tools of collaboration for a remote workforce (email, Webex, etc.)
      • The manufacturing facilities which produce, and distribution centers which move, critical products
      • What about key partners and suppliers?
  • Identify activities which can be paused or de-prioritized
    • Example: All companies will likely experience disruption in their supply chain. Those that produce a critical product for healthcare need to ensure existing customers continue to receive life-sustaining product. To do so, it is worth considering ceasing all NEW customer acquisition so that ALL production and inventory can be allocated towards fulfilling demand of existing customers to ensure they don’t run short.
  • Command and Control / Communications Protocol
    • Define a management / communications structure to ensure the upwards and downwards flow of information, solely focused on the status of critical operations.
      • Who is responsible for monitoring updates from the government and health-related authorities?
      • Who is responsible for interpreting the above as relates to the impact to critical operations?
    • Conduct daily (or more, as necessary) status checkpoints with critical operations
    • Provide daily (or more, as necessary) company-wide updates.
      • Via email, Webex, etc.
      • Include contractors and consultants who may be on the fringe.
  • Determine backfill strategy
    • If (when?) critical personnel are impacted by the event, who will backfill to perform their crucial role? Better to leverage existing / internal resources who are already oriented and trained (to a degree) vs. attempting to hire in this environment.
  • Identify and fill gaps that materialize with a near-fully remote workforce
    • Example: How do signature approvals take place? Yes, email approvals “can” work in the interim. However, in highly regulated environments these email approvals are often required to be followed-up with “real” signatures. This will create a backlog of work (and potentially loss of “official” approval-related documentation). If something like DocuSign hasn’t been implemented, it may be time to do so – now!

The above is meant to provide some “initial”, practical advice for business leaders to consider in responding to this unprecedented event. The failure to consider the above could very well mean failure: failure of the firm you represent.

We are Americans: Failure is NOT an option!

In closing, the above guidance results from decades of experience including, but not limited to, preparing for and executing numerous disaster recovery / contingency planning-related activities and scenarios (both real and imagined).

I hope you find this helpful for you / your firm!

Be safe, healthy and practical!

More to possibly come…

2 thoughts on “Contingency Planning – At The Highest Level

  1. beaverfood says:

    And…….once the stuff has gone through the fan start planning to remove China from all supply chains!

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