No matter how extensive and thoughtful your business’ disaster-preparedness plans were, it’s likely you didn’t account for a worldwide pandemic disrupting your operations for a year (or more).
With the current crisis fresh in our minds, now’s a good time to learn some lessons we can put to use in planning for the next upheaval.
Theoretical plans work on paper. It’s smart to try them in a working setting to see how they perform in the real world.
As you update your plans for the coming year, set aside time for a trial run. This will illuminate issues with technology, people, weather, vendors, and other variables that affect your plan. Include select suppliers and customers so you can accommodate their connections, schedules, and must-haves.
One of the most powerful lessons of the pandemic is that even with practice (see above!), the best-laid plans don’t always work. Improvisation is essential.
Nimble companies adjust on the fly. During the pandemic, agile organizations regrouped and moved ahead. On the contrary, inflexible companies were unable to adjust to the new pandemic paradigm, resulting in frustration and lost opportunities.
What have been the sticky parts of your pandemic performance? Have your teams been able to adjust? Are individuals empowered to keep work moving as efficiently as possible? How can you encourage out-of-the-box thinking and improvisation?
For much of 2020, things changed quickly, and it was hard to keep up. Initially, there were seemingly never-ending video conference meetings to discuss workflow and processes, resulting in virtual meeting fatigue. At that point, communication stalled, and it was harder to find time to brainstorm and try new ideas.
Moving forward, it’s imperative to include more casual gatherings to exchange ideas. Even a virtual break room or lunch-and-learn is helpful to foster interaction. Much is lost when there’s no opportunity to simply catch up and have a friendly conversation.
Today’s robust data analytics have taught us that an “experiment, test, evaluate, and change” attitude keeps work fresh. Constant evaluation—without blame, shame, or judgment—is the key to flexibility. Keep what’s working. Let go of what’s not.
Quick surveys, or even informal check-ins with customers, are a good way to gather information. Showing concern and curiosity about your performance keeps customers engaged and opens the door to more feedback.
5. Reevaluate, Later
Time provides perspective. After a crisis, gather the team for a discussion of what to do better next time. It’s likely that new solutions and different approaches—maybe even a complete reorganization—will bubble up. There’s no doubt that your company will come out of every challenge with new ideas for next steps.
Whether you’ve handled 2020 with little disruption or endured a trial by fire, you should be commended for making it this far. Take note of what you did right and think of what you might have done differently if given the chance. It’s unlikely the pandemic will be the last crisis we encounter, so revise your disaster plans accordingly and expect the unexpected.
Successfully navigating this crisis (or the next) means ensuring you have financial flexibility to minimize disruption and maximize opportunities. Wherever your business stands in its recovery, talk to Dembo Jones’ experts for a tailored plan for sustained profitability in 2021 and beyond.