Business survival in the COVID-19 pandemic
Given the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement of continued furlough payments until October 2020, there can be little doubt that businesses need to view the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of a campaign rather than a one-off battle. I use these terms deliberately, because for many, this is now a total war for business survival, and in the worst case the lives of our colleagues if we get our tactics wrong. I also use these terms because the military has for centuries made an art of drawing sense from chaos, whether it be Wellington at Waterloo or Eisenhower on D Day. Many ex-Forces people have spent years learning how to use the terms, concepts and planning tools and are now in the workforce struggling to understand why leadership teams seem unable to adapt their approaches to fit the “new normal”. This short blog will look at some of the useful terms and concepts, and we would be delighted to discuss them further with you on a one-to-one basis.
Identify the facts affecting the decision-making process
The first requirement in a dynamic situation is to identify the facts that impact on your decision-making. The military use the concept of an “Intelligence Fusion Cell” whose role is to bring together analytical intelligence expertise from multiple agencies and focus their efforts specifically on gaining actionable intelligence. Business needs to do the same – do you genuinely know all of the critical information, or are you as the decision maker slowly drowning in confusion? Establish a person or team to sift the information into clear, concise, actionable intelligence and to answer your Critical Information Requirements (known in the military as Commander’s Critical Information Requirements [CCIR]), in time for you to make the right decision.
Work on Business Scenarios or “Courses of Action”
Once you have achieved a good intelligence picture, you can identify credible “Courses of Action” (COA) or in business terms – scenarios. Initially there will be more than one COA and your team should be looking for conditions that either mean the COA is either no longer valid or that you are able to progress planning or execution. For example, in the current situation, COA 1 could be to return to office working as soon as possible, COA 2 could be mission essential people only asap and COA 3 could be to adopt home working for all unless a face to face meeting is critical. Each COA requires different planning to implement and each will be influenced by different factors but essentially, now you have a start point for more detailed planning – and if a fourth option arrives, great you have COA 4.
Selecting the best COA may be impacted by a number of factors, including what the Government allows, but it is the senior leadership team’s role to select the COA to be implemented, at the right time and with the right resources and appropriate direction. The factors that a business uses to assess the merits of different COAs will vary with each business, but could include elements of safety of staff, profitability, speed of adoption and impact on reputation. In addition, each factor may be weighted differently, for example if staff safety is twice as important as reputation, safety is graded out of 10 and reputation out of 5. If each COA is graded against the same set of criteria, with the same weighting, which one scores best? If your gut instinct says the one that scores the best isn’t the right one, why is that? What have you missed in your selection of criteria, or is it your or a colleagues unconscious bias? Simple maybe – but again, it helps to create a unified approach and clarity for the team.
The Main Effort
Many of the Veterans reading this will expect me to mention Mission Command but I will save that one for a Leadership blog, instead I am going to look at Main Effort as my final term. In your search engine you can access all the UK Armed Forces doctrine publications to find your own exact definition but in simple terms, Main Effort is that task or activity that is the priority to be completed so that you achieve the mission – in effect, when you are facing multiple priorities for your time and resources, what is the one thing above all other that should take priority? It is very effective to answer this question from the other end of the telescope – ask yourself what activities you are prepared to give up? For many companies there is a quick answer to the over-riding priority – Our People. Okay, that’s a great start but what about our people in particular? Salary, safe place of work, bonus, health care etc etc. Is it reputation so that your clients and staff all want to be associated with your business? Is it a new product that must be rolled out to ensure cashflow?
Whatever it is, it must be understood by your team so that you and they are all pulling in the same direction, and when the chips are down, you are all working together to achieve the one thing above all else that matters to your business.
In summary: 200 years of experience and counting
The Inverroy Crisis Management team combines business and the Armed Forces and has over 200 years of experience to draw on. If you would like to speak to Inverroy about how we can help your business to make sense from the chaos, please email our Operations Manager, David at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.