Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Most organisations have been significantly challenged by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the initial lockdown in March 2020. Some businesses ceased trading altogether, others were able to pivot their operational capability and offer new products or indeed service their customers’ needs in other ways. Supply chains were similarly stressed; most people will remember the lack of toilet roll and flour, however, perhaps more significant were the shortages of PPE and medication. With clear messages from the government to stay at home, many organisations quickly transitioned their staff to work remotely and there was a significant upswing in video conferencing use.
Significantly all of the above occurred at speed to ‘keep the show on the road’ and many organisations had to think on their feet to accelerate and implement this new way of working.
It was always anticipated that following the release of lockdown measures, there would be a subsequent wave of Covid-19. However, it would be realistic to expect organisations to be better prepared to respond. The ‘new normal’, may well be having to react to further waves of Covid-19 for years to come.
Dealing effectively with this disruption and ongoing uncertainty means that decision-making has become more important than ever for leaders.
So, what can you do about it?
Learning. What learning did your board gain from the pandemic and what actions were identified? Has this impacted on risk ratings, changes to policies and planning?
Preparation. What preparations have you made ahead of any subsequent wave? Have you reviewed your business continuity plan and is it clear who owns and maintains this? Is this plan simple, understandable, effective and accessible? Is there a communication and call cascade plan to minimise reputational damage of leaking misinformation? Is there an appropriately stocked grab bag in the event of an emergency?
Skills, expertise and succession planning. Have you assessed the skills you might need at the board table and are these now different? Do they include crisis management, communication, risk management, stakeholder engagement and cyber security knowledge and understanding? Are you considering recruiting to specifically address gaps in skills at both Executive and Non-executive director level? Are contingency plans in place if Board members are ill for significant time periods?
Training. What training needs have you identified at the board table and is there a programme in place to provide this? Are relevant individuals media training to ensure effective external communications? As a board member, are you briefed on new areas such as cyber security?
Responsibilities. Are you confident that all board members know and understand their role in these turbulent times? Non-executive directors can play a crucial role in supporting the executive team, acting as a sounding board to road test ideas. This includes guiding and coaching the senior management team as well as identifying priorities.
Delivery and performance. Are you confident that the organisation is equipped to address the challenges, risks and opportunities created by the COVID-19 crisis? How much of a reduction in performance can the organisation withstand?
Supply chain. What discussions have occurred with your supply chain and how strong is your assurance that they will be able to deliver throughout a crisis? Are contingencies in place should there be a failure? Are you aware of how long you can operate with interruptions to your supply chain and do you know your criticalities?
Staff engagement. Is there a clear voice from staff at the Board table? Has there been a review of any remote working and its impact on staff, their emotional needs and productivity? Did this lead to any actions and is there a well advanced plan to complete them?
IT. Has the move from office to remote working identified any specific IT risks? How have staff been supported by IT through remote working? Have guides to resolve common problems been produced to relieve demand on IT help desks? Have staff been using their own devices to access company networks as an emergency and has this compromised the integrity and security of critical systems? Is the organisation ready for an increase in cyber security threats?
These are very challenging times and likely to persist for a long time. Boards, like the organisations and customers they serve, need to adopt and adapt to a ‘new normal’. More than ever, organisations and their boards need to prepare for the future.
To discuss more tailored support on how to make your board ready for the next round of Covid-19, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, citing ‘Learning from Covid-19’ in the subject line.