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Oliver Wight Blog

Six critical elements that will get your business ‘Ready to Respond’ to the post-COVID-19 future

By Stuart Harman, Partner at Oliver Wight Asia Pacific

26 June 2020


As COVID-19 continues to have significant impact around the world, the uncertainties it has created for individuals, organisations and governments are not going away. In geographies where infection rates are dropping, concerns remain about a second wave, whilst governments struggle to restart or kick-start economies that have slid into recession.

So, faced with unprecedented levels of global uncertainty how should businesses be preparing themselves for the future? Scenario and Contingency Action Planning is a powerful methodology that when robustly applied can get an organisation ready to respond to multiple potential futures and deliver competitive advantage.

At Oliver Wight we have identified six critical elements required to make your organisation response ready.

1. Identify the situations that would have the highest impact

Benjamin Franklin was famously quoted as saying "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail", but what should you be preparing for? If you are going to put effort and resources into preparing for the future it is logical to focus on potential future situations that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business, both positive and negative.

 

2. Identify the situations that are most uncertain

If something in the future is known and reasonably certain, scenario plans are not required. Actions can be supported with a degree of certainty of the future outcome. Scenario planning is most powerful when applied to future situations that are most uncertain. This is when contingency plans become worth their weight in gold!

 

3. Identify the extremes associated with the future critical uncertainties

The future situations that have the highest impact on the business and are most uncertain are the critical uncertainties. Identifying the extreme outcomes associated with each critical uncertainty provides the basis for the scenarios about the future that you should create contingency plans for. A current example is the uncertainty about when Australians will be able to undertake business travel to New Zealand. One extreme is that this could recommence in July 2020 as "trans-Tasman travel bubble" is established. The other extreme is that international borders between Australia and New Zealand effectively remain closed to business travel until 2021. 

 

4. Create Contingency Plans to deal with the scenarios

Contingency action plans are the element that makes an organisation ‘Ready to Respond’ to the scenarios should they become a reality in the future. Ensuring that Contingency Action Plans include executive owners, lead times, resource requirements, and clear accountabilities will enable them to be successfully operationalised.

 

5. Identify the Triggers that will indicate that a scenario is likely to become the future

Identifying the indicators that will trigger a contingency plan is essential to providing sufficient lead time for execution. Defining the process for scanning the environment for those indicators and allocating responsibility for it is key to making it happen. Who will define, look for and report on the indicators? Who will make the decision to trigger execution of the contingency plan?

 

6. Prepare your organisation to execute the Contingency Action Plans excellently

Effectively preparing your organisation to execute the Contingency Action Plan will unlock competitive advantage. A Contingency Action Plan that sits on a shelf gathering dust risks being a surprise to those tasked to execute it when it is triggered. A plan that has been kept current, has been briefed to, and is understood by those who must execute it, and has been practiced or rehearsed, will be executed more effectively.

 

In our experience, very few organisations invest time and effort in making sure their contingency action plans are understood and have been rehearsed. Given the value at stake this is surprising to say the least.

Is your organisation ‘Ready to Respond’?