How COVID-19 is changing crisis planning

While there is much speculation about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on our economy, lives and careers, we know it will fundamentally change how our governments, businesses and leaders plan for and manage crises.

Very few organisations could have anticipated how rapidly the pandemic encircled the globe and few, if any, could have planned for such significant disruption. Many found they couldn’t implement plans fast enough to keep pace with the scale and speed of changes.

Over the coming weeks and months, many organisations will be reviewing their crisis plans and business continuity plans with some of the lessons learned from this pandemic.

Here are some of our key takeaways for organisations to consider as part of that review:

Crisis Team Planning

This is particularly relevant for larger organisations and we’re already seeing some lessons learned from some global hard hitters. Traditional models of crisis planning have relied on centralised command centres. Border closures meant that model was found to be lacking and a number of organisations are moving to a more decentralised model, designating teams to perform separate functions.


What has also been apparent is the lack of clarity of purpose for some organisations in a crisis. As a business leader, it’s imperative to define and clearly communicate priorities so that every member of your team understands what’s important, and what’s not.

Vulnerability Audit

Thinking wider than the current pandemic, all crisis plans require a vulnerability audit. Over the years we’ve been called in during crisis situations which could have been avoided if organisations had been aware of underlying issues; 95% of the time, somebody knew of the vulnerability but it had never been escalated.

The key is not so much being prepared for the unexpected but seeking to prevent a crisis from occurring in the first place. One expert has termed this ‘crisis immunisation’ – the act of uncovering and proactively addressing the root cause of a crisis (a recent example is those organisations who had an overreliance on outsourced labour). Reputation and operational risk can be significantly mitigated by actively heading off a potential crisis.


Finally, as with every crisis, caring for the mental wellbeing of your teams and your own personal care is essential in order to tackle the pace of change coming at you. Being able to get out for a daily walk during the lockdown was a sanity saver – don’t forget to prioritise yourself in times of crisis too.