Effective Planning for unforeseen events is when you envisage that there might be some kind of event where you will result in you having to close, or slow down, your business. Without using jargon, what does that mean?
It means that that your business will be able to carry on, in some form or another, until the unforeseen event is over and things can return to normal. Importantly, there will be times where the normal before the event will not be the same as the normal after the event. This is the natural way of things and not anything to be scared of.
In your normal documentation you have to define what a trigger event will be, and who would be the person to declare it. You should also have a documented communication process to spread information and the responsibilities of each individual from the beginning of the event until the business can resume normally.
What Planning Do I Have to Do?
The first thing to do is think about what should happen when a variety of possible events happen. These could be fire, flood, a key worker (including the owner/CEO) being unavailable for a prolonged period of time, state of emergency declaration. A train crashing through your office would certainly be an unforeseen event. Each one of these may have some individual challenges, however, there will be some similar traits that will have to be covered. Let’s look at them.
Where will the business operate from?
Whether your usual office/factory is available or not there may be a requirement to not use it, sometimes this will be under instruction of local/central authorities. How can your business survive if you cannot work from there?
If your business is large enough you may have two premises under your control you may be fortunate enough to be able to switch your prime location from one to the other for short periods of time. A lot of businesses do not have this capability and really struggle with this concept.
Manufacturers often have a build up of stock so that if these events do occur they can still provide finished goods for a while until production resumes.
Otherwise it is a question of being able to work from a different location, even home, while the unforeseen event is going on. Again in more established businesses some rent out space at a second location as a “disaster recovery” site.
Plan for the things you believe will have the highest probability of changing.
How will things change?
What you are basically looking to do is ensure that the minimum operations continue so that you can resume the business as soon as opportunity allows.
In 2020 we have the global pandemic of Covid-19 that changed how people can interact which stopped normal interactions and imposed quarantine and distancing protocols into daily life. Pandemic panning is a very specialist field and most SME’s were nowhere near ready for a change like this. Those businesses who had suffered a fire, flood, or prolonged absence of an important person did have some inkling of what to do. Other were floundering as there was nothing for them to base any decisions on.
While the things that change depend on the situation, a change in the following should be expected.
- What an individuals place of work will be.
- How decisions are made.
- How staff will communicate with each other.
- What rules will change when not working in your normal workplace.
Who will be in charge of what?
Your planning should detail any altered authority levels during an event which triggers these plans. This is most important if a “key person” is forced to be away from the business for any prolonged period of time.
Whether the decision is to centralise all decisions into a central point or to have a tiered structure to leave the most important and strategically critical decisions to the most senior members of the business is a personal decision. Get the process written down so that it can be followed and communicated, as a reminder, to those affect by the change.
Who has to know what to do?
Basically everyone has to know what their part is when one of these events happen.
Some will revert to the minimal hours quoted in their contract, e.g. a zero hours contract, or 10 hours per month, while others may be placed on notice of redundancy, or – as we found out in the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic – placed onto a furlough scheme.
Others will be required to change their role to cater for the event that is unfolding. This is why documenting as much as possible is recommended. It is so easy to get tripped up and have contentious issues to deal with.
For those faced with a change in role, communication and consultation is vital, so make sure every conversation is as open as possible and that you have specialist advice on hand.
How Do I Tell the Staff About These Plans?
It’s always best to tell everyone together – at least the high-level stuff. The low-level details will more likely be personal, so one-to-one conversations should happen with that.
Once an event happens, make sure that you keep in touch with everyone through it, whatever their role. If you need to change your normal place of work because of the event, be sympathetic to the comments of everyone and again make sure that you have professional advice on hand.
Getting back to normal may be slow and may be very different to how things were before. The event may have caused considerable changes to the business, or how it operates. These also need to be communicated considerately as some may not fit into the new pattern naturally and require support to adapt to changed responsibilities.
There is no “in short” for this type of entry. There is no real template for all to follow. There’s a lot of different approaches to this and the more sophisticated the business, the more sophisticated their plans need to be.
There is so much more information available, some of it very detailed. Please look through the other blogs and see if the information you want is provided.
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