The Coronavirus and Business Resilience

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Also posted on: Bloor blogs

Having endured months of social distancing, mask-wearing, and fiscal strain, most of us begin each day by considering a central question: When will this coronavirus pandemic end?

From my vantage point, admittedly a US perspective, four different answers have emerged:

  1. Some people believe the pandemic is, in the popular parlance, a media-inspired “hoax”.
  2. Others feel the pandemic is somehow over, as they abandon their homes for the pleasure of warm beaches, congested bars, and Donald Trump rallies.
  3. A more sober group insists that while the pandemic is real and on-going, the end must surely be in sight, certainly no more than a few months away. These individuals, beguiled by overly optimistic predictions about vaccine development, are convinced of a “return to normal” by year’s end.
  4. Finally, there are some observers, like this writer, who remain unconvinced that researchers will manage to eclipse the record for vaccine development (presently at four years) or produce a series of safe and effective therapeutics. Says pandemic expert Laurie Garrett, “Three years is my best-case

As a long-time business continuity and business resilience consultant, I encourage my clients to plan for the worst-case scenario, which for Covid-19 includes:

  1. A hastily produced vaccine with unknown side effects.
  2. Organized resistance by the anti-vaccine movement, particularly if one of the initial vaccines is flawed.
  3. A multi-year vaccine development process, in keeping with pharmaceutical industry norms.
  4. No universal vaccine or treatment protocol.
  5. A fluctuating series of business openings and closings, with related financial losses.
  6. The loss of critical supply chain partners.
  7. The loss of vital personnel owing to resignation or, more tragically, coronavirus infection.
  8. The loss of key customers through inability to perform, or reduced quality of service.

Some exposed industries, like airlines, hotels, cruise ships, theatres, and conventions, are already feeling the impact.

Other industries, like sports and retail, are functioning in survival mode, and praying that 2021 will resemble 2019, and not a replay of 2020.

Wishing, however, is not a preferred business strategy. Companies, whether large or small, should develop and maintain a comprehensive Business Resilience Plan.

Borrowing on the definition of resilience offered by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a business resilience plan is designed to help companies anticipate, withstand, recover from, and adapt to adverse business conditions.

The concept is like a business continuity plan, except a BCP is intended to affect recovery from a discrete, bounded disaster, like a fire or hurricane-induced flood.

A business resilience plan addresses persistent, i.e., on-going or recurring, threats, like pandemics, cyber-attacks, and climate change – threats with no time horizon, and threats that manifest in an unpredictable manner.

Just as companies now accept – in some cases, embrace – the necessity of business continuity planning, they should also pursue business resilience planning.

For those ready to proceed, we, at Bloor Research, stand ready to help in establishing this next level of corporate governance.