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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Adapting in an uncertain world

Posted on 12th May 2020 at 13:54pm

Evie Whatling and Gareth Black from Ricardo write that adaptive capacity, business recovery and long-term planning are going to be crucial in our changing world, and announce how to access their free webinar on living with Covid-19.

Ricardo is offering a series of free webinars over the coming weeks to help organisations fully understand the effects of Covid-19 and consequently, advise them on how they can adapt to the current normal and what will eventually be the new normal. Image: Chalermsuk Bootvises/123rf

The rapid spread of Covid-19 has meant that societal and economic norms have been dramatically affected, and organisations are feeling pressurised to adapt quickly – not only to protect their staff and customers, but also to ensure they can protect their financial viability and the livelihoods of employees.

When determining risks, crises of this scale are frequently placed as high-impact, low-likelihood events that are not expected to happen, but the potential is always present. Now that Covid-19 is here, it has forced everyone to recognise the fragile nature of business and the fundamental need for preparedness.

Covid-19 is likely be present in our lives for at least the next 18 months while a vaccine is developed, tested and manufactured. However, even if a vaccine is developed, it will still be some time before a national and global vaccination programme can be established. This means that organisations should expect the effects of Covid-19 to be prevalent throughout 2021 and potentially into 2022. Therefore, unless companies take proactive measures now, many may not survive.

Using the experiences of countries that are ahead of the UK in their response to the crisis can provide useful planning assumptions. These can then be used to help organisations prepare effective forecasts and start scenario planning for an uncertain future. In this way, they should have the adaptive capacity required to maintain central functions, while adjusting to the changing circumstances brought about by Covid-19.

Adaptive capacity

This can be summarised as the flexibility of an organisation’s functions so it can operate effectively and successfully in unstable and fluctuating environments.

Adaptive capacity and the necessary preparedness entailed in its functionality, is particularly critical for small and medium sized businesses because these tend to have lower financial flexibility, fewer staff resources and are vulnerable to managing the associated losses following the rippling shocks a pandemic generates.

Larger organisations may also struggle to be agile. Specific challenges might include underutilised internal teams and duplication of roles and being contractually tied into the delivery of large-scale, long term, global projects via global supply chains that are currently under threat. This is to name just two of the challenges ahead.

The current and new normal

Companies must now accept that operating alongside Covid-19 is the ‘current normal’. This is not a temporary blip in working practices, but a way of working and living that is likely to be with us for some time. For example, according to the Financial Times, while restrictions have been lifted in China, organisations have to comply with alternative working arrangements:

  • Body temperatures have to be checked several times a day;
  • Wearing face masks is mandatory;
  • Allowing only half (sometimes fewer) of employees into the office each day;
  • Gridding office walking spaces and desks so they are one metre distance from one another; and
  • Only permitting one person at a time in break rooms and eating lunch in isolation.

This first wave of Covid-19 isn’t a crisis that will stop once the restrictions are lifted. It is going to be a persistent and current crisis for organisations for the next few years, both when restrictions are eased and tightened. The sooner that organisations accept this as being the ‘current normal’ for some time, the greater the potential to establish a resilient and adaptive culture that will thrive alongside Covid-19, instead of being determined and controlled by it.

Being able to function within these fluctuating restrictions is essential for organisations to survive. They should develop plans to maximise productivity during easing phases and, at the same time, have a clear understanding and plans of how to function if restrictions are reapplied so that the delivery and protection of critical functions can be maintained.

Once organisations have considered how to plan, function and survive throughout the ‘current normal’ period, they can begin to map out what a ‘new normal’ might look like – in this case, a world beyond Covid-19. It is essential that consideration is given to how working practices may change, the needs and wants of customers, the economic situation, and understanding the threats and opportunities this new normal may offer.

Business recovery and long-term planning

If you are interested in enhancing your understanding of Covid-19, and the current and new normal, Ricardo’s experts held a free webinar on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 between 14:00 and 15:00 BST. It expanded on the themes in this article and provided further details on:

  • Updating you about the latest situation and what it means for businesses;
  • The current normal and new normal planning assumptions for Covid-19 and beyond;
  • Surviving and thriving now: Adaptive capacity and strategies to work alongside Covid-19 disruption;
  • Recovery planning for a better future: Making the most of the windows of opportunity that come with a disaster; and
  • Leading through and beyond Covid-19.

If you missed the webinar or were unable to attend, here are details of how to access the content.

About Ricardo crisis management services

Ricardo’s crisis management team has developed a Covid-19 preparedness and recovery toolkit and accompanying workshops. The aim is to support organisations to enhance their business continuity preparedness, increase adaptive capacity and develop long-term risk-management plans. This is done by:

  • Helping to identify the most critical systems that might still be offline, and providing specific strategies and recommendations on overcoming barriers to their restoration;
  • Providing strategies for the rotation and self-care of crisis management personnel who may be susceptible to ‘decision fatigue’, which is common in any long-running crisis; and
  • Helping clients prepare to structure and upskill, over a sustained period, Covid-19 response teams, working groups and strategic crisis management teams.

Additional or alternative ideas can be drawn from here

The Covid-19 preparedness and recovery toolkit forms part of Ricardo’s roadmap to resilience. This bespoke three-stage methodology helps clients to identify systemic vulnerabilities, and enhance adaptive capacity to prepare for and respond to these vulnerabilities – be they Covid-19 related or other quick-onset and/or slow-burn crises. If you require support to help your organisation survive alongside Covid-19, please contact Ricardo here.

The Crisis Response Journal is proud to be partnering with Ricardo’s crisis management team to bring you this online content. 

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