Reorganise to manage the crisis
To act on the five key priorities under lockdown first requires implementing a fast and unified decision-making approach that by-passes traditional processes. If not already done so, organisations should immediately put in place a COVID-19 team comprising leaders from key business functions to meet daily via video call and with the authority to make decisions on all key issues affecting the business and follow-up with swift implementation. In a far-reaching and fast-moving crisis such as this, businesses cannot wait for perfect information to act.
Organisations also need to quickly re-allocate roles and responsibilities for specific crisis management tasks along with appropriate decision rights further down the organisation. This decentralised decision making will allow your people to respond more quickly and appropriately to their local context. When they are empowered, your people on the front-line can also be a great source of ideas and innovation in a crisis. However, it is important that they are guided by a clear set of principles set by the leadership. These can include prioritising the safety of colleagues, the community and customers, cooperating with local authorities, protecting essential business operations, aiding customers and suppliers, and conserving cash.
Protect and reassure your people
With a clear and streamlined decision-making process in place, the first priority of your COVID-19 team is to protect and reassure your people. The primary concern of every individual is the safety of themselves and their families. As an organisation you need to help them through this unnerving period by providing access to the right information, giving protective equipment and clothing where required, and leveraging organisational resources to meet the essential needs of them and their family wherever possible. The second concern of your people will be the security of their jobs and income. With many companies having limited visibility on future revenue, open-ended commitments may not be possible. However, prioritising people's safety and communicating transparently about the current scenario and where your business stands will generate trust and goodwill. Leaders also need to show that they are willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of the company - your people will endure hardships to protect the organisation as long as they know 'we're all in this together'.
Communicate often and openly
In a crisis, the best and simplest principle is to communicate often and openly. Leaders should establish a regular frequency and channel for communication at organisation-wide, departmental and team levels. Leveraging video conferencing tools that provide opportunities for team members to share their concerns and questions is a particularly important way to maintain morale through face-to-face contact. During meetings leaders at every level should follow a simple formula of telling your people what you know, what you don't know, and what you now know that you didn't know before.
Ensure business continuity
For the duration of the lockdown, managing business continuity is vital to serving your customers, maintaining the safety of your facilities, and protecting your people. Therefore every organisation needs to define the minimum viable operation (MVO) for their organisation and put in place measures to ensure it does not fail. The MVO should consider all the steps in the chain to deliver your product and services from your suppliers to customer care. The key risks to MVO should be identified and resources should be redeployed to address them. Such steps can include providing for a skeleton staff to stay on-site, setting-up work-from-home solutions and establishing new protocols for providing customer support.