How to maintain business as usual in the face of disruption

Times of disruption are most often unpredictable—especially when the disruption involves disaster. But companies that weather the storm and make it out on the other end have one thing on their side: preparation.

Before COVID-19, many businesses took a “wait-and-see” approach. Because the future is so unpredictable, many business leaders conflate that to mean that there’s no way to properly plan ahead. But when you match unpredictability with a lack of preparation, the result is rarely success.

The number one way to ensure that your business continues operating at a productive and consistent level during times of disruption is by being prepared. And the first step to preparation is creating a plan.

There are three main plans that a business needs to thrive during disruption.

Plan for the future: Strategy & Vision

Before you can change directions, you have to know where you were originally headed. If your company does not have a clear vision for where it is going and what it will accomplish, how can you know what outcome to expect?

Once you’re clear on your vision, you must have a strategy for reaching that vision. What are the steps that your teams can take to make the vision a reality? They include the goals the company wants to achieve and the metrics that will be tracked to determine if those goals are on track or not.

It’s important that the vision and strategy exist, but where they exist is equally important. They should be kept in a place where the entire company can see them on a regular basis.

Additionally, the strategy should be reviewed every week to ensure that it is still accurate. As disruptions and disasters occur, the strategy may need to be tweaked to fit the current climate. Otherwise, your strategy may be leading you down a path that no longer exists.

Plan for issues: Risk Management Plan

Once your company knows where it is headed, the next step is to plan ahead for any potential roadblocks that may come onto the path. You do this by evaluating risks, evaluating the impact those risks could have, and preparing solutions and work-arounds.
Creating a risk management plan ensures that your business is prepared to handle a variety of unpredictable events—from insignificant to catastrophic. With a plan in place, everyone has a system for evaluating and responding to risks.

Plan for disaster: Disaster Preparedness Plan

In addition to everyday risks, it’s important to plan ahead for a variety of potential disasters and how your entire business and staff will respond should one occur. This can include extreme weather conditions, fires, major system outages, health crises, and more.
Disaster preparation includes creating specific plans for how disasters will be handled. For that reason, it’s important for your plan to include all of the following:

  • A plan for disaster prevention: Although many disasters cannot be prevented, there are some than can be. It’s important to take advantage of this and create checks and processes to ensure these avoidable disasters are successfully prevented.
  • An evacuation plan: In the event of a disaster on site, there must be an evacuation plan to ensure all employees can safely exit the building or remain in a safe location inside the building when applicable.
  • A set of expectations per role/person: During a crisis, it can become increasingly difficult for people to stay focused and clear-thinking. That’s why it’s important to outline everyone’s roles and responsibilities before a crisis to ensure they know what to do next in the middle of a chaotic situation.
  • A clear and accurately covered insurance plan: Someone on staff must understand the insurance policy and coverage and ensure that this coverage remains adequate.

Conclusion

Businesses that try to “wait and see” what their next steps should be will lose sight of their map and won’t see the tidal wave coming in time to react effectively. To stay ahead of the competition, preparation is key.

Rather than encouraging people to “wing it”, the unpredictable nature of the world should encourage more businesses to plan ahead and strategize their responses to potential threats to their businesses well before they occur. With proper preparation, a business can predict risk and disaster situations, reduce their impact, and continue on their path to success.

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