Friday, April 26, 2013

Dust off those binders and simplify your plans.

According to the World Health Organization, we are in monitoring mode with respect to the H7N9 virus that has been detected in China and Taiwan.  While government agencies may be tightening up their plans behind the scenes in case the virus turns into a pandemic, companies will most probably stay in idle mode for the time being.

But at this point I've been asked often enough about it that I'm providing the links here to my 2007 pandemic article, that provided a context for the financial sector to plan, then discussed specific add-on pandemic tweaks for existing disaster recovery plans.  A second article in 2008 looked at how much progress had been made by the financial sector a year later.  And there's this 2009 KING-TV interview I did on pandemic planning around H1N1:

 


What we do know these days is that overly-elaborate plans that reside in fat binders rarely get used.  Checklists, on the other hand, are easier to use in time of need, and allow us to see more easily and ask "what have we missed?  what else should be on this list?" 

We know that up to 40% of a workforce can be absent during a pandemic, but the business must continue to operate. So among the items we added to the regular checklist for pandemic were policies on cross-training our people, and on delegation of authority, and on how to pay our people if they were ill.  The entire senior management reviewed our most critical business processes and re-classified them for pandemic into "continue,"  "reduce," or "suspend" classifications. 

At the time, I called pandemic planning "worst case."  Of course there are other high impact/low probability events that could come along, but not many that allow a company to truly flex its strategic chops to figure out how it will continue to serve its customers in the midst of a phenomenon that could last several months.

It doesn't take long to pull those existing plans off the shelf and determine whether, with a bit of fine tuning, you'll be ready to go if necessary.  While you're looking at the plans, think also about how you could simplify them.  And if you need assistance, just give me a call.

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