As a leader, it is difficult to plan for every single event that may or may not arise. The current pandemic is a prime example – I’m fairly certain that most organizations did not have a plan for this unprecedented event. That said, there should be a lesson in all of this: as an organization, there is value in having contingency plans in place should a rare or unexpected event occur. Now COVID-19 is significant, and hopefully something that we never encounter again. However, planning for potential labour disputes or environmental situations, for instance, is a good idea. For example, let’s say that you have 50 staff working in an office building that you own. What happens if a water leak floods your building and staff can’t be onsite for 2 months? How will your business continue and adapt to the temporary change? In this example, you’ll want to build a plan around remote work (sound familiar?). Questions that you will want to contemplate include the following:

  • Do you have the IT infrastructure in place to allow for remote work?
  • How will customers be impacted by the office building closure?
  • How does continuity of work occur due to this unplanned event?
  • How quickly can you mobilize staff to work remotely?
  • Are there any roles that that will be unable to continue remotely?
  • How will you coordinate the office “opening back up”?

The above are just a few items that need to be looked at for this type of scenario. Of course, this plan could be duplicated (or may need minor tweaks) for other types of business disruptions. Not having any type of contingency plans in place could be detrimental to your business. For example, if your organization doesn’t have an IT infrastructure that supports remote work, what would happen in this situation? More than likely, your company would be left scrambling, which could take days or weeks to get mobilized. In that case, your customers are likely already looking at other options to meet their needs.

Organizations are generally focused on the issues at hand or “firefighting”; let’s face it, planning for events that you hope never occur may not seem like a priority. However, taking the time to develop contingency plans could be a life saver for your business. Of course, you will ideally never need to action these plans – but they will be there in the event you do need to. Furthermore, ensure that your leadership group is not only part of developing the plans, but that they are aware of what their role is if one of these plans needs to be put into action. As well, these plans – like policies or other significant organizational documents – should be reviewed on at least an annual basis. After all, technology, people, processes, etc. change and evolve, so you’ll want to make sure that information contained in your contingency plan documents are as up to date as possible – having a situation arise and realizing that most of the information in the plan is no longer relevant would not be ideal. Happy planning!

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