By: Natalie Bauer Luce

With a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in, well, pretty much everywhere, is your organization ready for the next wave and potential crises that could come with it? Have you taken the time to look at what your crisis management team did right during the initial outbreak when responding to crises? More importantly, have you looked at what went wrong for your organization amid the chaos and confusion of the early outbreaks in the U.S.? 

Here are five questions you should ask your leadership team to assess your crisis readiness as you prepare to navigate the next wave of COVID-19:

1. Did we assemble the right crisis management team?

Minutes, not hours, matter in a crisis, so it’s imperative you have all the right people in the “virtual” room to ensure decisions get made and executed in short order. Make sure your crisis management team enlists the right members of leadership but also the right subject matter experts to guide the C-suite’s decision making. If your industry requires in-person operations (e.g., a manufacturing plant or a construction site), make sure you have the right experts to guide your infection prevention protocols. For remote teams, do you have the information technology leaders involved to ensure your employees are equipped with all the necessary tools? When you don’t have the right expertise internally, bring in outside support.

2. Did we establish accountability?

The time to decide who does what is not in the midst of a pandemic. When examining your crisis readiness, it’s important your crisis management team understands each respective role and respects those lines of authority. Make sure the team knows who has decision-making authority and identify–and eliminate–any speed bumps for making decisions expeditiously.

3. Did we communicate clearly and quickly? 

Social media has all but eliminated any option of hesitation. In a crisis, your crisis management team needs to communicate quickly and decisively to fill the void before someone else does it for you. Even when you don’t know the answers just yet, say that. Establish the facts you do know and the facts you don’t know. And then promise to follow up with the answers, fast.

4. Did we communicate with the right audiences?

In a crisis, it’s important to speak with one voice, but that doesn’t mean you’re only communicating to one audience. A business has many stakeholders, from customers and vendors to employees and investors. Make sure you’re communicating with each critical audience frequently and in a way that addresses their chief concerns. You also should consider enlisting your champions to speak out in support of your organization.

5. Did we adjust our plan in real time?

Build in a feedback loop to your plan and ensure your team is agile enough to react as events and actors impact your crisis response. Institute daily (or if needed, more frequent) war room calls to provide timely updates and adjust your plan as needed based on the feedback you are hearing from stakeholders and what’s happening on the ground. Don’t execute the plan in a vacuum. 

Assuming one day in the distant future we will return to “normal,” whenever that time comes, it’s important to look back on these real-time adjustments and ensure they get baked into your future crisis management plans. Take stock of what your team has learned, and make sense of the experiences gained in the heat of the crisis to improve your crisis readiness the next time. Because it’s not a matter of if but when the next crisis hits.