The recent outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has created a sense of urgency amongst many organizations to review and update their pandemic plans. Most of those plans hadn’t been exercised, reviewed, or even updated since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 or the MERS Coronavirus outbreak in 2012.
After dusting off the old plans, many organizations have come to realize how much has changed since they last documented the tasks and teams required to execute their pandemic strategies, and how much information in their plans has become obsolete.
While going through the process of updating their plans for a pandemic, organizations must realize that the plan itself is not the end game. It is not practical to document every action to be taken for every possible scenario. The greatest benefit that results from updating your pandemic plans is the identification of what is needed to continue operations during the disruption, including: the information for making effective decisions; the bi-directional communications for maintaining control; and the trained resources for successfully executing the plans.
To avoid over-documenting and underdelivering, and to ensure your organization gets the maximum benefit from the current pandemic planning efforts, it is important to focus on the following.
Your organization’s viability is predicated on a healthy and available workforce. Protecting your most precious asset – your employees – requires:
While reviewing your pandemic plans, ask these important questions:
Your organization’s ability to survive a disruption of the workforce or the disruption of a critical third-party will not only depend on how effective you were in the planning process, but also the tools you have and the training you implemented. The tools you use to communicate, maintain situational awareness, and provide current and accurate information will have a major impact on the execution of the plan. Practicing your plan ensures all involved parties understand their roles and responsibilities.
As you review and update your plans, you should also conduct walkthroughs and exercises. This is the best method for identifying gaps in the plans. It will also change the dynamic for executing the plans. Active participants will become familiar with the goals and objectives and begin to use the plan as guidance rather than a prescriptive list of tasks to be followed without any rational thought applied.
While you are evaluating your plans, you must also assess the tools used to maintain relevant information and assist in the execution of your plans. Old technologies and obsolete tools will put execution of even the best plans at risk. Identify any deficiencies in the tools you have available and create a comprehensive list of requirements to enhance your ability to execute. The sooner you begin to upgrade your tool set, the sooner you will be able to reduce your execution risk.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was attributed with saying: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Organizations need to heed his advice as they work through their plans and identify the resources required for dealing with the possibility of the pandemic disrupting a significant portion of their workforce or the workforce of one of their critical suppliers.
We are all monitoring the situation, and are hopeful that it doesn’t result in more significant impacts. It is important to remember the keys to successfully managing through a disruptive event: