Recovery –
The way out of the crisis

Recovery – a topic that is very often neglected and yet is crucial for good crisis management.

But: a structured and quick return can possibly make the decisive difference to many companies. This is because a real competitive advantage is gained on the market, with possible long-term prospects of success over the competitor. Conversely, however, this also means that a slower recovery process may lead to a lasting deterioration of the company’s own economic position.

For this reason, it is of fundamental importance that companies address this important topic in detail in their business continuity and crisis management plans.

Hope for the best

What points need to be considered? March is Recovery Awareness Month. In this article, Jerry Allen and Kerstin Mumenthaler discuss important basic points from an organisational perspective.

Who decides when a crisis is over?

Viewed academically, a crisis is over when the organisation achieves planned recovery milestones. Viewed practically, this assumes that organisations have embarked on such advance planning or can determine recovery milestones.

Many organisations caught in a crisis will form a Crisis Management Team. The job of the CMT (among many others) is to map a route to a more stable environment that can be managed by the organisation’s normal management processes. This does not mean the crisis is over but it does mean that the organisation has reached a point where extreme special measures (forming a CMT) are no longer necessary.

Is the recovery process the same for each crisis?

Following any crisis, two things must be ‘recovered’. The first is the people, the second is the organisation (company, town, Country). The people are often forgotten as part of a recovery plan.

The principles that govern the recovery of people from one crisis to another are typically the same. For the organisation, however, there are many diverse challenges that may require radically different recovery processes.

Let’s consider the people, warm human beings. What are the principles for our recovery, that typically remain constant irrespective of the crisis?

  • Assurance – a reminder that there is light after dark.
  • Honesty – knowing how bad it can be but also how to contribute.
  • Targets – confidence in the recovery plan and its achievable objectives.
  • Security and safety – immediate safety and longer-term security.
  • Communication – regular, consistent and accurate messages.

But what about the organisation? There is a significant list of potential crises but many of these share similar consequences. Consider, for example, the loss of your facility from a fire and from an explosion. The consequences that you must manage are almost identical for the two risks, so just write one recovery plan. You will have multiple recovery plans but they will consider essentially different consequences.

The prerequisite is safety knowledge and awareness.

The focus of an SMS is on risk management. By means of a „closed loop“, safety-relevant risks are identified, evaluated and monitored until the risk has been eliminated or at least reduced by a changed procedure. This means that findings are examined, documented and communicated. If the result is still not satisfactory, the loop starts again.

Strategies back to… Yes, back to what exactly?

“Business as usual”. Especially in 2020/2021, this is the most over-used and misleading expression.

Pre-COVID, what was normal? For a company making a loss, they don’t want ‘business as usual’ they want to change. For those in profit, they will be looking carefully at competitors and new markets to determine what change they can make to safeguard their business for the future. In both those scenarios, the feature expression is “change management”. Business as Usual is the acceptance that business is not normal, it is dynamic.

An organisation in crisis is firstly looking to survive. When survival is assured the organisation looks to recover. But people need to know the recovery objectives. BC plans and crisis plans should clearly state the quantity, quality and time objectives for recovery. Simply saying ‘business as usual’ is not good enough, it demonstrates that recovery planning is immature and vague.

The biggest challenges along the way

The main challenge is and remains the individual: existential and general fears, social isolation, concerns about one’s own health and that of family members, but also family-related organisational challenges have a great influence on the resilience of each individual. These social aspects should not be underestimated and can only be influenced to a limited extent by the organisation itself! How well a company or organisation can ultimately rely on its staff to support recovery in a crisis therefore depends not only on their willingness and capacity, but precisely how resilient they are at that time. These factors need to be taken into account when setting up crisis and BC plans and when allocating roles. It is naïve to assume that every person who is available at the time of preparation will also be available at the time of the crisis. In practice, however, we repeatedly come across lists of names for a crisis team in which only one person is named as responsible. Even for small organisations, we recommend defining at least two people for each crisis post and additionally training the scenarios where only half of the effective crisis team is available at the same time. But hand on heart: how many companies really do this?

Challenge: Internal and external environment. The number of stakeholders is very large. It is sometimes impossible to continue to serve all their interests during a crisis. A strategically sensible prioritisation must be made depending on the situation and on an ongoing basis.

Challenge: Risk appetite. A crisis can have a significant impact on the risk appetite of a company, but also on that of the individual employees. It must be ensured that this does not create a gap between business objectives and actual feelings of employees which results in decisions and actions that are no longer in harmony.

Challenge: Communication. The key to success is communication. It sounds so simple, but in practice, many companies fail to make adequate arrangements. Communication must be proactive, open and honest, both internally and externally. In the case of recovery, a timetable of the phased return is best. Then everyone knows what to expect and when, removing uncertainty.

What’s next?

Follow our Social Media activities to learn more about other crucial factors. We will shed some light on the soft skill aspects soon.

Would you like to learn more about this topic? We recommend the web seminar on 23 March 2021 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (CET) on the topic of Disaster Recovery – The Way Back to the „New“ Normality, which is being held together with F24 Schweiz AG. (German language only) Take advantage of this opportunity!

Kerstin Mumenthaler – aim4safety

Kerstin’s heart beats for safety and crisis management.

In addition to her training as a commercial pilot, Kerstin therefore completed a Master of Science in Air Safety Management and attended various courses in business continuity and also project management. As a former airline pilot, her logbook contains more than 6,000 flying hours on the Airbus A320.

Today she is an official member of the Business Continuity Institute (MBCI) and offers services and consulting for business continuity, crisis and safety management through her own brand aim4safety. She is currently studying Change & Innovation Management at the University of St. Gallen.

Jerry Allen

Jerry Allen is a leading authority on crisis management and business continuity, particularly in the logistics, aviation, and hospitality sectors. In his 20 years of international consulting experience, he has carried out numerous assignments on site to provide direct support to customers in major crises.

As a consultant to top management, he is best known for his expertise in command and control (C2), crisis communication and resource management.