A Phased Approach to Crisis Management
Jim King 05.21.2020
Companies have been dealing with the upheaval caused by the coronavirus outbreak for several weeks now, and we can begin to see the structure of the process. I think the key to organizations navigating this successfully comes from having a comprehensive perspective on crisis management phases and employing best practices for dealing with each phase. Here are some of the typical phases we’re focusing on here at Okuma America.
Phase One: Response
I personally have never been a proponent of having employees work from home. I believe there are human interactions that help the culture of a company grow and be nurtured, and collaborating in a shared space facilitates that process. If you’re disconnected, even with technology that allows you to work from home, how can you become fully immersed in the culture of the company?
Yet COVID-19 made it necessary to transition to work from home environments, so we needed to mount a practical response. This marked the beginning of phase one of our crisis management process, the responsive phase, where actions are very reactive and fast-paced.
Immediately we had to reevaluate how we operate as a company. Many of our employees had never worked a single day from home in their entire careers, so they experienced radical change in a short amount of time. To help them through this transition we prioritized finding ways to ensure that employees were engaged and felt connected to the company, albeit in remote fashion.
In phase one, we specifically outlined tasks for our employees, which helped them remain focused on their particular job responsibilities and removed any potential uncertainties about what they need to do and what their role is within the company. When people are in turmoil and their minds are full of chaos (and sometimes even fear), I find that giving people something to focus on is quite helpful. This proved to be a successful approach, in fact so much so, I can now see some of the opportunities that work from home can bring to the table.
Phase Two: Reintegration
At the end of phase one, we focused on shifting from reactionary mode to becoming more intentional with our employees. This is the phase we’re currently in, as of late May. Now, instead of focusing on task-oriented behaviors, we’re preparing to come into a new physical work environment, with the realization that things will be different. Our priority now is to map out how we define and become productive in this new environment.
We learned that some of our employees are very productive working from home. This means, with the reintegration, we may want to make small adjustments to our policies. Perhaps we have designated people who work from home come into the office for a certain number of days per month, to keep connected to the culture of the company.
There are also many new guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, and our industry associations that outline the arrangements of the workplace as we repopulate facilities prior to having a vaccine available for COVID-19. At Okuma we currently have a COVID-19 reintegration team that is conducting risk analysis on every aspect of our business to create a healthy environment and make sure our employees will feel safe when they come back to work. In this phase we’re also preparing the company for the recovery and restoration that will follow.
I believe, as we’re in reintegration, we now have time to do the planning and be intentional about the future of our company, and what strategies we may need to adjust going forward. We don’t want to radically change the good company culture we’ve already built, but there are some things we can implement that make us just that much better. At this stage of the game, I’m driving our organization to be very intentional about mapping our go-forward strategy.
Phase Three: Recovery and Restoration
In phase three we work on recovery and restoration. I firmly believe that the culture of our company will change, and it’s up to us to make sure it changes for the better. Here we take lessons learned from phases one and two and analyze the good outcomes that have arisen from this crisis. This is where we define how we can leverage aspects of our new culture to create advantages for our future.
Our new reality might incorporate using technology to interact with customers in a virtual way. Perhaps our salespeople won’t need to be on the road 90% of the time. Imagine how dramatically quality of life could change for some of these employees who have historically spent 80-90% of their time on the road. If they could reduce that by 30% or 40%, that’s a wonderful outcome for them and their families. Overall, I envision that we’ll uncover significant ways to streamline our company and make it stronger.
The recovery phase is not an event, it will be a journey and take some time as we adjust and rebuild a great organization. This is where we truly see Open Possibilities for our company, distributors and our contributions to the industry. And this is where we maximize our opportunity to serve in the unique way that Okuma does, by “passionately pursuing a customer for life.”
The leadership team at Okuma America wishes to thank Scott Cornwell and the Center for Intentional Leadership for their input and guidance as we navigate this journey.