Our insights from facilitating debriefs during Covid

Over the past 2 years, we have been facilitating incident response debriefs, capturing organisations’ lessons learned from their covid response.

A vital part of the crisis response and recovery process, debriefs capture the good practices that need to be embedded in future responses and the opportunities to act now to improve plans, processes and capabilities to improve your organisation’s ability to respond in future crises.

So what have we learnt?

  1. Plans need to be fit for their purpose

    While a plan was never going to get any organisation through Covid, most organisations spent far too much time covering basics that a Crisis Management Co-ordination or Business Continuity Plan would have dealt with – roles/responsibilities, key priorities, critical activities, and resourcing levels. Locating plans was also an issue for some organisations, several had good H5N1 plans but no one knew they existed.

  2. Getting the right balance of communication can be hard

    Communication was found to be either too often, not often enough, too short, too detailed, one way rather than an exchange, too many channels, too few channels, and definitely more resources needed.

    Communication is the main game, not an addendum, and needs to include customers, staff, contractors, suppliers, and regulators.

  3. Leaders need to invest in building team culture to ensure the wellbeing of their team

    While there are a lot of great leaders, they need to remember to invest in capability building as well as building operational rhythms and a culture that enables trust and empowers shared leadership. There was also confusion in some organisations as to whether this was a problem HR should lead.

    Be clear in your planning about who leads in a disruptive event and ensure they have the capability and capacity for at least two weeks of intense operations.

  4. Virtual coordination centres need to be carefully designed to ensure they work effectively

    Operating a virtual coordination centre has consequences – both positive and negative. Many organisations need to work on designing virtual operations that maximise incidental encounters and assist with clocking off among other things.

    Managing a virtual response team takes a considerable effort. It is important to maintain situational awareness and break down silos. Regularly shared briefings each day are essential.

  5. Build external relationships before a crisis

    Many organisations did not have the depth and variety of external relationships they needed to get them through Covid. The external relationships and partnerships called upon during Covid were in many cases quite different from traditional natural hazards.

    Networks are essential in response operations. Building them before an event and identifying connectors is essential.

  6. Forewarned is forearmed

    Many organisations didn't take notice of Covid until the government reacted. This is too late as you are then behind the proactive organisations. In China, businesses were alarmed early and took action well before the government reacted.

    Be proactive, build your sensing capability, and actively scan your environment, these are key tools to being forward-leaning.

Has your organisation captured lessons from their Covid response?

Do you have a clear lesson learnt implementation plan with responsibilities assigned?

Get in touch if you need help.

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