Even the UK’s National Risk Register states a pandemic, albeit an influenza one, as one of the most significant threats facing the UK. Whilst this blog is not a commentary on how well the UK managed COVID-19, it does show that even governments find it difficult to correctly analyse and understand the potential impact of a threat, let alone devise contingency plans to mitigate the effects appropriately. It’s worth noting that a number of those risks on the National Risk Register, that sit in towards the high impact and high likelihood end of the spectrum are linked to Terrorism, whether its attacks on transport, Crowded Spaces or electronic attacks.
By Chris Medhurst-Cocksworth, Head of Risk Management – 09 July 2020
What’s your worst case scenario?
How many organisations in the UK also had pandemic mentioned on their risk register? Was it adequately understood what it could mean to their business? Were plans drawn up, resourced and rehearsed? What else lurks on risk registers throughout the land that were put on with the best of intentions and then forgotten? And how many plans will now be re-written with Covid in mind? Should we simply base our planning assumptions on that worst case scenario, just as strategists can be accused of designing their forces based on the experience of fighting previous wars? Or should we look to design our response plans to be agile and robust enough to manage the unexpected?
Reflecting on the pandemic
It’s time now to take a good, hard look in the mirror and honestly answer these questions:
- Do we know what bad really looks like for our business?
- Did our response plans work; had we resourced and rehearsed them?
- Were they agile enough to protect the critical elements of the business?
- Can we assure our stakeholders that we are a resilient business?
Review your plans
Reviewing now, in the cold light of day, what worked as well as what didn’t work will be the first steps in building a resilient organisation. Businesses are increasingly operating in a complex and inter-twined market-space; that means the risks can be complex as well. We are often limited by our experience and knowledge of only the risks that we know. We are resource-constrained, often making it hard to find sufficient time to analyse and plan effectively.
There is no shame in seeking support or a second opinion. As an Army Officer, I frequently conducted my planning with my junior officers and NCOs in developing a plan, building a trusted team of experts and advisors to support the planning and analytical process. Businesses can do the same whether they have the internal resources or seek support from outside.
Resource and rehearse
It’s time now to be honest. Check your analysis of what risks your business faces and what the potential impact might be. Ask yourself if this is accurate enough. Base your future planning on an informed understanding rather than second guessing as that will ensure your plan is appropriate to the task. And remember; a plan is not a plan unless it’s resourced and rehearsed.