More on Pandemic Planning

My recent posting on pandemic planning prompted a comment suggesting a Top 10 list of actions. I couldn’t resist the challenge. Each organisation is different and requires its own specific action plan. But there are many common actions and principles. I’ve pitched this at organisations rather than citizens because the latter is a job for government agencies. And I believe they have most of this in hand.

Identify critical assets

Determine your most critical business processes and list all essential supporting systems, services and supply chains. Then identify the minimum set of individuals, facilities and suppliers you need to maintain these processes. Be selective. Don’t tackle more processes than you can count on one hand. And be ready to postpone anything that can be put off for a year or so.

Develop contingency plans

For the key assets you’ve identified, consider fallback options. How might essential staff continue working if public transport is disrupted? Can they be replaced quickly? Could they operate from home? Can accommodation be provided on the premises? Are there alternative sources of supply for key materials or components? Is there a fallback for an overseas call centre in a vulnerable region? Should sourcing strategies and contracts be revised?

Establish a crisis team organisation

If you don’t already have a crisis team, then put one in place. At the minimum you will need a list of names, deputies and contact details. If you’re more ambitious you can have multiple teams in dedicated rooms with white boards, communications, information sources and secretarial support. In all cases you will need Board-level empowerment to take decisions, and a communicated procedure to invoke the crisis team.

Conduct a crisis exercise

Train up your crisis team through a crisis exercise. Consider bringing in professional help to devise a good script. The script should be designed to bring out learning points and to test the team’s ability to maintain business operations through a constantly changing business environment. Some crises are fast-moving, others creep up slowly. A pandemic has elements of both. Monitor and review the team’s performance and identify actions to improve leadership, organisation, decision making, facilities, support services, communications and information sources

Review building layouts and protocols

Consider how office and plant layouts might be adapted at short notice to limit the spread of infection. For example, consider positions of desks and chairs, and how to disinfect shared phones and door handles. Consider alternative working methods and changes to protocols, such as discouraging shaking hands, public travel and face-to-face meetings. You should also consider strict limits by visitors to key sites.

Review IT and communications

Consider enhancements to IT systems, infrastructure and communications to enable greater use of home-working and flexible sourcing of services. Some systems might need to be adapted for remote working. Network traffic patterns will change. Virtualisation of storage, processing and networking should be exploited to enable greater agility. At the same time, you can be reviewing how best to respond to IT trends such as mobility, consumerisation, virtualisation and de-perimeterisation.

Prepare the HR function

The human resources function will face major challenges in responding to large scale absences, providing advice on staffing, and counselling staff and families. Additional training and new processes and systems might be required.

Be ready to brief your staff

Develop briefing packs for staff and contractors, explaining the consequences of a pandemic, the steps the organisation is taking to maintain business operations, how they can help maintain business operations, actions to avoid and limit the spread of infection, and what they should do if they or their family become infected.

Consider the impact on investments

The knowledge you acquire in preparing for a pandemic can also help you to gauge the potential impact on corporate investments. Scenario planning will help you to explore the most extreme impacts of a pandemic on the global business environment. You should consider how such scenarios might impact your longer-term risk appetite and how you might hedge against specific risks.

Exchange notes with other organisations

At some you will ask yourself whether you are over-complacent or going over the top in your pandemic planning. One way of assessing this is to compare practices and exchange notes with other organisations. This will also generate useful side-effects such as gaining a transfer of good ideas or enabling collaboration in sharing infrastructure or resources.

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