COVID-19 & Business Continuity

Gary Beckwith
Gary Beckwith

Hands up all those that had response plan ready for business disruption in the event of a pandemic… I can tell you that I did not! Although, pandemics aren’t new to us. In fact, this is our fifth since the turn of the century. So, COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, isn’t the first threat that’s surged around the world — nor will it be the last.

But this event has a very different feel to it. Why? Because our perceptions are informed, re-informed and altered by a bombardment of new sensory influences: news, fake news, social accounts, statisticians and politicians. And these perceptions drive our behaviour – which then drives the news. Punch-ups over toilet rolls being a recent example.

What’s this got to do with Business Continuity?

Companies with audited quality management systems are likely to have a defined Business Continuity Plan (BCP). The leadership response (planned or otherwise) to business disruption will certainly affect the behaviour of its stakeholders: employees, customers, supply chain members and volunteers etc. Business continuity plans set out a documented collection of procedures and information that is developed, compiled and maintained in readiness for use in an incident; to enable a company to continue to deliver its critical activities at an acceptable ‘pre-defined’ level. However, what we can say with some degree of confidence is that the disruptive effects of COVID-19 will be with us for the next 12 months at least. That’s a lot of behaviour change and adaptation to potential new ways of working. Try and pre-define that!

What’s the solution?

We cannot deny the personal pain and suffering that COVID-19 is creating. Business security will be a secondary concern - but mustn’t be underestimated.

Much of the changes currently taking place will be ‘needs must’ or ‘firefighting’ activities with respect to home-based working arrangements and redeploying resources due to lost or shifting contracts, for example. Regardless of the plans in place.

Core business processes (critical activities) must be maintained to ensure minimum business continuity, and this will clearly be ‘priority number one’ at this time. But at what cost, literally?

How does one truly measure the cost of implementing a solution, whilst comparing it with the benefit delivered? Especially where the benefits may be defined in financial, reputational, and service quality measures?

The answer: one doesn’t. Stakeholders no longer want, or accept, being limited to being on the receiving end of change.

They increasingly want to insert themselves in what needs to be done, as ‘process owners’ or ‘consumers’ – opening up the possibilities of enhancing value in their own activities, human experiences, and that of business success.

What does this look like in practice?

Simply put, coordinated and meaningful engagement. As leaders, how can we best ‘co-create’ business insights with stakeholders to support resilience, such as:

Efficiency savings (reduce waste)

Eliminating hidden costs (remove waste)

Innovation (problem resolution and new stuff)

Value creation (maintain/ develop stakeholder buy-in and reputation)

Consider the following structure:

Identify your stakeholders (including your supply chain) and communication channels.

Communicate what you know to be true… ‘What’s happening

and why’.

Use potential/ current threats and impacts as a starting point for gathering insights into opportunities [to support resilience].

Analyse contributions – what solutions develop ‘mutual value’?

Implement. Communicate changes with stakeholders and back up with learning & development activities.

Communicate successes and what has been learnt.

Repeat the process.

This continuous improvement cycle will not only support times of crisis, but also business continuity when times are less frantic. To summarise, if you are working to a ‘build it and they will come’ approach then your culture is not supporting co-creation. Instead, ‘build it with them’, and they’re leading the way as your most loyal people. The Gobby service supports internal communications and offers a unique survey platform that fully supports the process of co-creating products and services. Gary Beckwith, founder of Gobby, is a Quality Professional with over 25 years’ experience. If you would like discover more about stakeholder engagement, and are as passionate as we are about making it meaningful, then get in touch at #TakePeopleWithYou