Preparing for a Second Wave of COVID?

This article first appeared in Scottish Continuity Quarterly Bulletin Aug 2020


After five crazy months, Scotland has achieved a good position from which to emerge from the lockdown and we are all seeing more and more activity now than we have done for weeks.  Indeed, as I write this, Ministers are finalising plans for the confirmation of the re-opening of Scottish schools on 11 August.  If we are lucky, we may even have managed a short holiday and are now finalising our plans for the gradual return to work of our teams and a reopening of the offices.

So, before we all put our feet up and relax, we are also seeing worrying signs of second waves across Europe, and spikes of infection across the UK.  If a second wave was to hit the UK, or one of your key supplier’s operating base area, would you be as prepared as you can be?  Have you found the time and energy to document all the good things that you did so that they can be repeated if required?  Have you identified the areas where your response could be improved?  Have you talked to your Tier 1 suppliers to ensure that they are as prepared as possible?  This short article will explore a few of the things we might be considering now, just in case.

1.   Access to reliable data. 

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It has never been more important to have access to reliable data from all your operational locations.  Have you identified the sources of reliable data on infection rates so that you are forewarned of possible spikes in cases and the potential imposition of new lockdown measures and quarantine requirements?  If one thinks of the OODA loop introduced in the 1970s by Col Boyd to aid decision making, the first O stands for Observe – are we observing the right things?  Are we seeking information rather than waiting to be told about the consequences of the information that was there days earlier?

2.  Do we know what to do with the data we observe ie can you orientate yourself to align with the new situation? 

Have we created a way to assess the information to turn it into intelligence that can aid decision making?  Do we understand what the data is really telling us?  For many of us, the data may help us to decide when to move from one phase or state of preparedness to another.  If that is the data we need, are we asking the right questions?  Currently we see lots of statistics about deaths, is that the best metric or is it infection per 100,000? 

3.  Given the orientation you have made above, do you have the mechanisms in place to make decisions? 

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In a crisis, speed matters.  Have you trained the executives to be able to make decisions at speed based on limited data?  Have you updated your plans and procedures to reflect any “new ways of working” or simply parked it all in the too difficult category?  For example, if a holiday destination has a second surge like Spain has just undergone, and you have staff there on holiday, who makes the decision on whether they can have extra holiday time to use as quarantine if they cannot work from home?  Is it the staff members fault that they have been caught out – not if they have complied with Government advice, but does it set a precedent?

4.  Once the decision has been made to implement new measures, do you have up-to-date contact lists? 

If staff have been on furlough, is the contact register accurate?  If there have been redundancies, are the key responder roles staffed with trained people?  Do you have good communication routes in place with all your stakeholders?  If you are a College or University, this would include both students and parents.  Do you know how to communicate at speed with your supply chain and what to do if an element of it becomes disrupted?  If your Tier 1 suppliers rely on Tier 2 or 3 suppliers from other locations, do you know what these vulnerabilities are, and have you encouraged the Tier 1 supplier to work with you if any link in the supply chain is damaged?

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Finally, any business needs to consider the 3Cs – Cash, Customers, Capabilities. 

  • Cash.  In a second wave, we will need cash reserves to survive.  If the Government supply is drying up with the end of furlough, where can you obtain new cash from?  Whilst banks etc are one solution, perhaps the easiest way of long-term cash to be guaranteed is from your customers.

  • Customers.  What do you need to do to keep your customers onside and spending either now or in the near future to support your cash flow and avoid administration?  Options range from pivoting the business to deliver new opportunities that may not have been present before COVID, to selling forward with vouchers or selling online.

  • Capabilities.  What are the critical capabilities that you need to delight your customers and generate a positive cashflow? 

This is the piece of the jigsaw that needs maximum attention in the face of a second wave…what capabilities must you protect and nurture at all costs to ensure your business survives?  (Some of you may say that capabilities are the same as “Processes” in BCI speak, sadly Process doesn’t begin with a C so bear with me!  I would also argue that by capabilities we are encompassing process, activities and the skilled staff to deliver).  It may be that these capabilities are less than you currently offer, so be it, change to recognise the new situation and do it quickly, provided that your observation and orientation phases were accurate and thorough.  You can re-build from a strong core offering, you can’t rebuild if you haven’t survived and in my opinion, that is the whole point of the BC specialist.



Matthew is the Founder of Inverroy Crisis Management Ltd and combines 25 years of experience as an officer in the UK Armed Forces with a decade in business delivering organisational resilience solutions to clients from Mexico to Malaysia and Aberdeen to Australia.

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