We are living through unsettling times, and many organizations find themselves in crisis mode, and many are not prepared for it.
Check-6’s Leon “Leo” Roberts, Jr. has decades of elite experience leading operational, technical and academic organizations in public health, life sciences and epidemiology. We wanted to get his take on COVID-19 and our proper response to it.
Q: The swift spread of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have taken many by surprise. Good information is being disseminated regarding how to keep from spreading it, and how the virus attacks the body. This must have brought back many recent memories of experiences you had as a Technical Advisor in the Army during disease outbreaks and public health emergencies and how contingency plans were developed and then executed. What advice would you give to leadership in organizations to assist them in dealing with this pandemic?
A: Seek guidance for reputable sources such as the CDC and your State and local health departments. Stay in frequent touch with your employees and customers on a wide variety of social media platforms. Tell your employees and stakeholders the concrete actions that you are taking to help them during this difficult time. Reassure everyone that we will get through this ; there is light at the end of the tunnel. Be truthful and transparent, even if the news is not good. People appreciate honesty.
Q: It can be easy for organizations to become overwhelmed with the fast pace of this spreading virus. We are seeing a massive shortage of supplies and testing kits and it is straining the medical workers. What are tactical steps leaders can take during the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: I see several steps that are critical to managing a crisis like the one we are seeing now.
Five Key Crisis Management Steps
- Clear Objectives.
- Have a detailed and crystal-clear plan.
- Have a clear understanding of your business objectives and how this crisis will affect these objectives.
- Focus on the details; the more detailed your plan the smoother it can be implemented.
- Have detailed actions plans.
- Keep everyone in the loop: employees, stakeholders, customers, suppliers, the media, etc.
- Have a dedicated “Crisis Management Team.”
- Gather senior executives whose sole responsibility is to work on the crisis.
- The planning, prediction, and action plan is the sole responsibility of this team.
- Include subject-matter experts on the team to provide technical advice.
- Include an employee representative on the team to show your employees that you are addressing their concerns.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Keep constant communication flowing; this is one of the most crucial aspects of crisis management.
- Appoint a well-trained and well-informed crisis spokesperson.
- Refine and broadcast talking points/message points to all parties.
- Be honest and transparent. This will minimize or prevent rumors at the time of crisis.
- Prevention is better than cure.
- Keep contingency plans, deadlines, and finances up to date and in-line with organizational objectives.
- Some crises can be avoided by simply changing existing methodologies and operations.
- Seek expert advice to develop your contingency or crisis plan.
- Test your contingency or crisis plan before it is needed.
- After the event, convene your crisis team and review what went right, what could have gone better, and capture lessons learned.
- Did your plan work?
- Did you have the right critical information during the crisis?
- Did you act quickly enough or too quickly?
- Revise contingency or crisis plans based on lessons learned.
- Ask stakeholders and employees for their feedback.
Bottom Line: No one is exempt from a crisis. As we have learned during this pandemic, even if your business or industry is thriving, global circumstances can send your organization into a tailspin almost overnight. Preparation is key, as is how your organization responds during a crisis.
Check-6 has a team of experienced contingency and crisis managers/advisors who can assist businesses and organizations during their critical and fast-paced crisis planning and recovery efforts.
Click here to learn more.