Coronavirus Crisis – Why Leaders must be extra vigilant

“In the drive to survive the Coronavirus crisis, organisations might unknowingly be letting standards slip. Beware.”

With leaders of all organisations understandably completely immersed in dealing with the Coronavirus crisis – is their next crisis bubbling under right now? For those of us whose Crisis Management careers are dedicated to helping Organisations prepare and deal with Crisis – these are especially interesting times. Yes, we have work to help our clients navigate the single biggest disruption to our way of life since WW2. But, we also have a duty to anticipate what might be their next threat.

No, not another pandemic. We’ve all got our hands full dealing with this one – but one that will not be ubiquitous, like the Coronavirus Crisis. It will likely strike their organisation specifically. And the chances are that the seeds of it are being sown right now.

The fact is that in these times, when the Coronavirus crisis dominates all of our lives, the resources of most organisations are seriously stretched. By absenteeism, government mandates to isolate, and in many cases, the sheer diversion and distraction that the Coronavirus Crisis itself provides. In the drive to survive, organisations are in danger of allowing standards to slip albeit unwittingly.

Many will deny it, but normally reliable resources, department and functions are currently diluted and distracted. The opportunity for declining standards never mind outright mistakes is high. All those carefully crafted Health and Safety policies. Those best practice guidelines, and the plethora of quality controls. Their purpose is to achieve excellence and to address ISO, Risk Management and Business Continuity issues. However, they are being almost invisibly threatened through necessity in these stretched times.

The rules of Crisis

It’s a fact that Crises, like buses, often come along in numbers if not threes. How many times have organisations breathed a sigh of relief as one crisis passes when another arrives? This phenomenon is well known to industry veterans who counsel clients to be extra vigilant as a crisis subsides. It’s called the sucker punch and it happens remarkably often.

The opportunity for this to happen in the coming weeks and months is extraordinary. Crisis creates its own set of rules. While organisations in some industries such as tourism, food service, hospitality and entertainment are agonisingly affected and in some cases eliminated. Remaining ones are being asked to operate under conditions that no one could have envisaged only recently. How many leaders when reading about the problems in Wuhan, China last December would have predicted the devastating impact of the Coronavirus Crisis? That their own industries, never mind their own organisations, would be facing a near societal meltdown in less than one Quarter.

The drive from leaderships teams in many of the industries remaining is to keep going. Not at any cost. But at the maximum capacity it is safely and professionally able to do so. We’re in a time when normal rules do not easily apply. Leaders must be extra careful to ensure that their organisations do not inadvertently sew the seed of future crisis by allowing their rigor to drop.

Three things to look out for during the Coronavirus crisis

1. Slack reporting

Understandably when trying to get things done with depleted resources it might seem to make sense to put to one side the very protocols that were put in place to ensure safety, quality and best practice. But of course it’s not. If reporting in these critical areas is below usual standards as a leader you should ensure the underlying processes themselves are not being ‘overridden’ through expediency. Any corners that are cut are liabilities in the making.

2. Distracted staff

Yes remote working can be effective and we are all benefitting from new technologies that allow us to continue to deliver. However, do not underestimate that while as a leader you are likely to be used to remote working – many of your staff, some in key and critical positions are less so. This may manifest itself in hard to detect distractions or simply an inability to nail the detail. Whether it’s the pressure of the forced proximity of homelife or all our compulsion to hear the latest news – distracted employees are the ones more likely to make mistakes. Look out for this – it can light the touch paper of Crisis.

3. Supply chains

If we assume all is well in your business – be mindful that your suppliers may be having greater resource issues than they might care to admit. Whether its labour or cash – this pandemic is stretching all enterprises. Whatever you produce you are reliant on the integrity of your suppliers – so make sure you check on them too. Any failure on their part could soon become your problem. Communicate up and down your supply chain – both ways are critical to survival and success.

If there is one piece of advice we can leave you with, whether it’s for dealing with impact of Coronavirus crisis or other situations in the future, it’s that:

The Hard Rain approach

We believe in honesty, transparency, consistency and accountability.

Hard Rain is relentless in its approach to crises. With a lifetime of experience, we support our clients to demonstrate crisis readiness through our crisis management, communications and training provisions.

We advocate a long-term partnership approach, with many clients now entering a second decade of benefiting from the invaluable expertise Hard Rain provides.


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