The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis continues spreading much faster than most global leaders expected. China failed to provide timely reporting, health quarantine measures for containment, and medical disaster readiness. Now, it is infecting and killing people in all the world’s continents except Antarctica.

The coronavirus pandemic is entering a new global phase after numerous containment attempts. CEOs need more in-depth planning for readiness. It’s not just affecting select industries such as airlines, cruise ships, or travel, but every business. Global supply chains, with any China parts or work, are closed or failing. Most business continuity, communications, disaster recovery, risk management, and workforce plans are not adequate. Pandemics require different playbooks than business continuity plans for earthquakes, fires, floods, and wind. Expect new viruses in the future too!

CEOs must lead and direct an executive team for a new corporate pandemic playbook to protect and survive the COVID-19 virus disruptions.

Here are key CEO actions to minimize the pandemic risk to your business:

  • Appoint and Lead Executive Pandemic Readiness Oversight Team
  • Reshape Crisis Communications and Education Plans
  • Workforce, Customers, and Delivery Goes Remote and Virtual
  • Global Supply Chains – So Last Century Thinking
  • Pandemic Readiness Playbook – The Last Step Putting It Into Action

Appoint and Lead an Executive Pandemic Readiness Oversight Team 

Appoint an Executive Pandemic Oversight Team with CEO oversight immediately. Make this an executive-based action team that frequently meets with immediate decision-making on-demand for execution and refresh all business continuity plans and exercises for any epidemic. Coronavirus is more deadly than flu, and it’s spreading like flu. People have been infected by others without signs of illness. These new infection cases are “community spreads” – being sick without an infected person or virus hotspot. The CEO needs timely coronavirus forecasts, and visibility into lost revenues/sales/budgets, profit margins/EPS, inventory/supply chains, and any workforce changes for delivery, operations, and sales.

CDC Infectious Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier told reporters that the spread of coronavirus is “not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses”

Pandemic Oversight Team is integrated into your emergency management teams at a designated low-risk/offsite planning site for organization refresh.

Federal regulators have urged companies to improve their risk, compliance, and auditing reporting for epidemic impact. Refresh Governance Risk Compliance (GRC) plans for new controls and procedures to ensure accurate communication with investors, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Tom Sporkin, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer, warned if companies aren’t forthcoming about financial risks related to the epidemic, they could face future lawsuits.”

The best case for a new vaccine looks like 12 to 18 months out for mass rollout and use, according to Coalition For Epidemic Preparedness (CFEP) leading research experts.

Corporate Hygiene: Think Like A Hospital 

Like walking into a hospital, your organization entry points, elevators, and work floors must have good hygiene at the door: simple, cost-effective hand sanitizer stations for the workforce, customers, and guests. Use throwaway latex gloves for cleaning. Keep work surfaces disinfected with daily cleaning with alcohol-based solutions for a good disinfectant. Clean conference and visitor rooms daily with a 6-feet separation of people. The workforce should be encouraged to wash hands with a 20-second rule frequently. Create travel go-bags (throwaway gloves, headsets, pillow, sanitizers) for critical travelers to protect and wipe down travel areas- airplane seat touchpoints, and hotel rooms. Consider the workforce COVID-19 defense and healthcare support:

  • Free onsite flu shots, testing support, and medical treatments;
  • Offer 50% pay for time off while quarantined;
  • Make appropriate sick pay policies changes as required;
  • Perform immediate industrial-grade deep disinfection cleaning solutions in any infected work area.

All flu-like and sick workers must not report for work until cleared by a medical provider. Make necessary hygiene changes from CDC updates.

Reshape Crisis Communications and Education Plans 

With so much misinformation/disinformation on the internet sites, especially Facebook, the organization’s Crisis Communications and Education (CMC) Team needs workforce updates. CMC launches/reshape COVID-19 updates for just in time workforce information. It includes healthcare defenses with education actions on this crisis.

Organizations need to craft timely, short digital communication messages and actions to the workforce, suppliers, and customers. Critical summarized information from CDC, NIH, and WHO are vital sources for organizational emergency action plans and workforce updates. Keep it simple-health safety- green, yellow, or red alert communique.

Workforce, Customers, and Delivery Goes Remote and Virtual

With China’s 40% global production, impacts from closings of factories or limited output affect raw materials, assembly, and finished goods exported to every country- directly or indirectly. For the current epidemic, an organization needs to shift quickly to remote delivery and service models to continue work. For infected locations, split up your workforce into three parts:

  •  Team 1 for limited critical work onsite.
  •  Team 2 move workers to home offices and remote work sites using cost-effective technology like Zoom for video conferencing from anywhere and Slack for sharing work files and collaboration efforts.
  • Team 3 sets up remotely to reshape all the critical organization plans for epidemics such as your business continuity (BC), GRC, and Disaster Recovery (DR) plans to tackle coronavirus and any future worldwide epidemic event. Several global financial institutions – such as JPMorgan – are using this model now.

CIO mobile team designs and issues standard remote IT GoBags for remote workers. It should include:

  • Corporate laptop/printer/headset combo;
  • Critical business apps and tools;
  • Essential remote work tools for video conferencing and collaboration such as Zoom and Slack; and
  • Secure VPN, fast internet/cloud, and mobile services.

Spin up another DR cloud service from your strategic multicloud environment, if required, to support these or any emergency efforts. It can lower the risk for offsite if current cloud services locations are at-risk and allow the best of breed cloud services too. Consider AWS, Azure, or IBM Hybrid Multicloud cloud offerings.

Rethink your organization work delivery model for remote workers and customers. For example, the new Chinese Duke Kunshan University (DKU), a partnership with Duke University, is at the epicenter of the coronavirus. It reimaged and changed its teaching business model immediately. It redirected itself from an onsite campus school to an online school within just weeks. It used Coursera, Zoom, and Slack solutions for new and continuous course delivery. The outcome was no extended or unplanned closures or lost students like other universities.

Global Supply Chains – So Last Century Thinking

Many organizations have bought into global supply chain support plans for product and services consolidation. The goal was to reduce the workforce, create cost savings, and be cheaper and more efficient. Most businesses flocked into Chinese-based parts, materials, and assembly. There is a considerable downside risk when inventories, products, and services break any part of a link. China is the current supply chain problem with many other countries right around the corner to break down too. Organizations need to drill down to see all the moving parts of supply chains for risk management. For example, business inventory shirts come from Bangladesh but take a closer supply chain examination. The fabrics come from China. If no Chinese materials are available, then no shirts are available. So now inventories become depleted, and orders and sales break down. Create independent strategic regional supply chains to mitigate supply chain risk. For example, if the supply chain goes down in AsiaPac, then increase in another supply chain without this risk. Reduce more risk with multiple regional supply chains outside of any megacities, where new epidemics are volatile. This global supply chain risk position is the New Norm!

Pandemic Readiness Playbook – The Last Step Putting It Into Action

Regardless of how this epidemic plays out around the world, your organization is better prepared for the next pandemic. Depending on the size and scale of each company, it must integrate all risk touchpoints for the pandemic playbook. This planning effort includes integration and updates to your critical corporate plans:

  • Business Continuity (CR)
  • Crisis Management and Communications (CMC)
  • Disaster Recovery (DR), and
  • Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC).

The outcome will be a new actionable pandemic playbook. Depending on your organizational size, refresh and run your playbook exercise at least yearly. Think like DoD military exercises – always prepared!

CEOs, CIOs, and executive leaders need an immediate organizational planning overhaul on how they will execute these critical actions. This effort crafts a robust pandemic readiness playbook to minimize business disruptions, lost revenue, sustainable workforce, and supply sources quickly.

Copyright @ 2020 HAWALD ADVISORY, LLC. DISCLAIMER: This article is entirely my opinion without financial payments. Research note credits: Peer review by Tom Austin, Dr. French Caldwell, and Toby Bell. The image is by pixabay.com. Member of The Analyst Syndicate.