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The critical nature of a crisis response team

As businesses continue to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, some organisations are feeling the fallout more than others. For some leaders, there has been a realisation on how prepared or underprepared they are to manage the ongoing crisis as it unfolds.

While COVID-19 and its far-reaching effects are indeed unique, crisis leadership in itself is not a new concept. As a vastly different future unfolds and we come to realise this new reality is here to stay, it’s time for leaders to determine how they ensure the success of their organisations in the future. The actions of executives will be critical in navigating these uncertain times and rallying the workforce around executing change.

Drawing on our experience supporting clients on building business agility and resilience, we’ve prepared a series of insights on managing this disruption, Leading through a crisis for a healthier future. In the last instalment, we looked at a framework for building sustainability while managing the immediate situation. Now, we dive further into the first step: establishing a strong foundation of support.

A cross-functional rapid response team

As a leader, it’s impossible to drive transformation and manage a crisis independently or on your own. To execute the necessary decisions with swift accuracy, a cross-functional rapid response team (RRT) is essential. This group should comprise key executives, functional department heads and internal change-makers geared towards managing internal and external communications. The RRT will be well-placed to mitigate obstacles and serve as the control centre for your decision-making.

Your RRT will ultimately be responsible for three critical areas:

  1. Making the appropriate decisions at the right time for immediate action. The ability to recognise the early warning signs and respond accordingly will be vital in preventing incidents spiralling into crises of their own. The RRT will classify risks, establish mitigation procedures and conduct scenario-planning, allowing for accumulated risks and behavioural trends in the response plan. They will also need to empower the rest of the organisation to be aware of these signs and take the initiative to report these circumstances. In a time of crisis, it must be all-hands-on-deck to support leaders’ in managing the fallout, and the RRT will play a big part in ensuring that people have the opportunity to provide support.
  2. Empowering the responses to face minimal resistance. The RRT should develop processes for deviating from the norm, training employees to analyse and adapt to situations within their scope that arise because of the crisis. One way to achieve this is through structured training sessions that demonstrate the response plan and establish trigger levels to eliminate ambiguity in execution. A robust training framework allows the rest of the organisation to take responsibility at the individual level for the inevitable changes and feel invested in creating a more stable future. Leaders can then align resilience-based activities with standard roles and develop a sense of security that stems from a strong culture, rather than just rules or protocols.
  3. Creating a framework for managing future crises. Though it’s difficult to predict the nuances of every business challenge yet to come, the COVID-19 situation has highlighted that businesses were mostly not prepared. Now is the time to establish an RRT protocol and put systems in place to mitigate the fallout of future events. The current RRT can take responsibility for this forward-looking strategy by conducting an appraisal of the ongoing response to identify gaps and then developing recommendations to improve on the response plan. They must then prepare the rest of the organisation to execute an updated plan by encouraging scenario-testing and crisis rehearsal and ensure a culture of readiness.

By taking these steps, your RRT can simplify the transition of the workforce during this time and achieve productivity and operational excellence. While this capable group tackles the big decisions and breaks them down into actionable tasks, leaders can focus on the high-level issues and future business growth.

To establish a healthier future, leaders must take action now. Explore how Enlighten can support you in creating your RRT with a free consultation. Contact Helen Mackay, Head of Sales and Marketing, for a virtual coffee chat at helen.mackay@enlighten-opex.com.

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CASE STUDY

We have seen many success stories during this crisis with some of our forward-thinking clients pulling together efficient response teams and driving a healthy operating rhythm despite the challenges. In the case of a leading financial institution, an interesting model was explored around a multi-level RRT.

The client implemented their RRT at both the enterprise and departmental levels, led by a Chief Risk Office and managed with daily meetings. This allowed them to share learnings, challenges and direction for the following day. Having this system set up prior to the peak of the crisis meant the client was able to quickly identify critical tasks and manage capacity before they were spread too thin. It also enabled them to fill in the gaps when external providers closed their services abruptly.

The RRT was able to show them two key things: the importance of engaging employees, providing them with a purpose and value to believe in at all times – this was critical in managing productivity and moving the vision forward – and renegotiating contracts with third parties to be outcome-based, thus changing a critical element of their operating model.

Learn more in part two of our ongoing series here.

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