A Crisis of Decision: What to Do When the Old Rules Don’t Apply

A Crisis of Decision: What to Do When the Old Rules Don’t Apply

There’s a bit of wisdom positing that generals tend to prepare for the last war.

People in all endeavors are vulnerable here: while experience imparts wisdom, the lessons may not fit the unpredictable future. Even the hardest blows can leave us unprepared, a maxim demonstrated frequently in the current crisis.

Managers addressing the coronavirus crisis must be wary of ‘false equivalencies’: comparing experiences that aren’t fully congruent. Many practices are finding that carefully crafted contingency plans, based on real struggles of the past – terror attacks, natural disasters – are inadequate to meet current demands.

How long will the coronavirus outbreak last? The situation is unprecedented: even global war, the kind our grandparents faced, offers no real precedent. While the war’s timeline was unpredictable and normal markets were disrupted, domestic economic activity peaked and trade continued, despite U-boats and other dire perils. Our ancestors triumphed and so can we, but we’re walking down a pretty dark alley towards only the dimmest of light.

The crisis calls for effective business decisions beyond keeping operations on track: the survival of our companies is at stake.

There’s plenty on our plates. We can ride out depressed markets for a time, but what happens if the economy remains locked down for another six months or even more? Will key managers be stricken with coronavirus? In tumultuous times, we need to get organized and plan logically.

One expert suggests a six-step program to guide your crisis planning. This schematic can help in preparing for any type of crisis, beyond today’s viral threat – force majeure, clumsy humanity, an angry shareholder. Let’s consider it.

The first step is the assessment phase. Examine the problem, current or predicted. Determine if it’s localized to your firm or industry, or if it’s more widespread, even global. This will help determine the scope of required action, as well as the expected external resources available to support your campaign.

If you anticipate disruption of normal operations, remote working techniques should be created and actively tested. Some firms are faltering today because plans that looked good on paper are faltering under fire. Thorough training and realistic testing are time consuming and sometimes expensive, but vital.

A SWOT exam is next: strengths to rely on, weaknesses to address, opportunities for business in a crisis – they’re certainly there – and threats to your company’s survival. A dip in profitability can be endured, but failure to assure steady operations, even under extreme stress, will be fatal.

Step three naturally follows: continuity planning. If a key executive become ill, goes missing or is suddenly incommunicado in a crisis zone, a designated replacement should be available to step in for the duration. The coronavirus crisis has taught that replacements for the replacement are needed, and companies need to dig deep into mid-level management to find promising candidates to be groomed for top-level duties.

Next, address the stability of crisis operations. Protect your employees at all levels. If civil turmoil is anticipated, have an escape plan in place. This is essential and must not be overlooked: many businesses operate in stressed societies – profitable today, tumultuous tomorrow. In a viral crisis, providing reliable information and following the guidance of healthcare officials will help keep your team healthy and functioning. By now, we should all have learned that.

Strategic planning comes next: the balance sheet is key, while profit and loss can be ignored for a time. Keeping the lights on is priority one. Finally, once all these plans are laid, implement them. Some managers worry about crying wolf, of perhaps worrying a little too much. If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that overpreparing is nearly impossible to do.

For more information, please read:
Hard Choices: Making Key Business Decisions To Preserve Culture In Times Of Crisis | Kitces

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