Response to COVID-19: Deciding What to do Next

Now that you have probably made some much needed, critical decisions in response to COVID-19 impacts on your organization, where do you go from here? How will you approach the short and mid-term impact of the pandemic on your organization? Pondering these questions reminds me of a Harvard Business Review article titled, “When Solving Problems, Think About What You Could Do, Not What You Should Do.” I am also reminded of the old management adage: “don’t just do something, sit there.”

Effectively answering the two questions above, while evoking the quotes, requires one to think strategically. This means one must think creatively, yet also analytically. It means one must think about the immediate environment, but at the same time consider the broader environment. It means one must think about the future while at the same time considering patterns from the past.

In the early days of the pandemic, executives often needed to take a command and control approach, sometimes working in close partnership with a small number of elected leaders to make some quick but important decisions. Now, hopefully, you can take more of a strategic approach in addressing your organization and its future over the next 12 months. 

Identify impacts, challenges or problems

The first step to a strategic response to COVID-19 is to identify potential COVID-19 impacts, challenges and/or problems that your organization may face as a result of the pandemic. You might consider impacts on the organization broadly as well as specific program impact. You will also want to determine impacts on your members' industry/profession and which of those impacts will impact your organization.

Use this as an opportunity to engage key thought leaders in your organization. Succeeding on this first step will require the application of diverse perspective. It is important to reach out beyond the executive committee, your “kitchen cabinet,” or possibly your Board. At this point, your focus should be on the quantity of ideas, not the quality.

There are number of tools/methodologies one could apply, including online brainstorming software, qualitative interviews, surveys, real-time online virtual brainstorming, or Delphi methodology. You might choose to use one of these options, a number of them, or an entirely different mechanism. 

Determine Impact on Strategy

Next, consider potential impacts on your strategic plan itself. So, for those of you who haven’t looked at your strategic plan since you put it on your bookshelf, it’s time to dust it off. J Consider this a preliminary review. Capture these impacts and add them to the list of potential impacts you created in the first step above.

Prioritize Impacts, Challenges and Problems

There are a number of ways to prioritize the impacts, challenges and problems. The important factor is to undertake an initial prioritization, not how it is done. With limited resources (staff and dollars), and most likely a large number of impacts, one must be selective on where to focus resources. You might use a priority action matrix, a ranking system, Delphi methodology or a number of other prioritization techniques.

Create/Update Strategy Response to COVID-19

Making final decisions on prioritization and developing a strategic response to the priority issues should not be done in a vacuum. These are important conversations and decisions that should be undertaken by a diverse group of thought leaders and experts. Depending on the types of challenges your organization is facing, design either a strategic problem solving or a strategy development retreat to make final prioritization decisions and build response strategy. The retreat could be an online, virtual retreat or an in-person retreat. Either of these approaches will allow you to take advantage of the strategic thinking and perspectives of a broad group of thought leaders and experts.

And, remember, you don’t have to wait for the “all clear” from authorities or until your thought leaders are comfortable with traveling. You always have the option to host an online, virtual retreat.

How have you handled your strategic response to COVID-19?

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