How can we prepare for a post-COVID-19 world?
It is not an exaggeration to say that business is currently operating in one of the most universally challenging environments since the end of the Second World War. Every aspect of modern business has been disrupted in some way, whether it be having to rapidly implement working-from-home regimes, dealing with fragmented supply chains, or having to hibernate operations, the world has clearly changed.
While we know and expect that there will eventually be a vaccine for the virus, no one can say with any certainty what the post-COVID-19 world will look like. The best that we can say right now is that governments and businesses will have to adapt to the new environment quickly in order to restore public and customer confidence in a world that has turned on its head.
What can we do about the future today?
A question that any business should be asking right now is “What can we do about the future today?” You might say in response to that question that it is impossible to plan when you don’t know what the future looks like. While it’s true that we may not be able to foresee every possible aspect of the post-virus world, that is not a compelling reason to do nothing. There are ways to approach this issue, even in the absence of a complete picture of what the new business world will look like.
We have learned a lot from the recent natural disasters in Australia and the COVID-19 pandemic about how businesses need to be able to respond rapidly to unexpected significant change. Some of the lessons learned include the need for simple continuation of business plans, alternative ways to communicate, and how to manage the human face of business in a rapidly evolving operating environment.
These and other lessons can be factored into contingency planning along with credible assumptions about the nature of government and business in the next few years. A well-researched contingency planning session can help senior leadership better understand and prepare for the next phase of business post COVID-19. The contingency planning activities should involve all key leaders of the business, be managed by an experienced facilitator, and look at every aspect of the business core functions. It is a proactive process aimed at identifying and dealing with key risks, which then allows for plans to be developed to deal with likely future scenarios.
Contingency planning does require commitment and resources from senior leaders who no doubt have other things on their plates right now. However, now is the time to be acting to ensure that government and business emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in the best shape possible. Like every other risk faced by businesses, the risk of not planning for resumption of “normal” operations is too great to be ignored.