The PeopleCap Playbook

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The Crisis in 3 Phases

Co-Authored by Katie Spencer & Meg Crosby

We have all been swept up in a tsunami of change that hit us hard and fast and has left us disoriented, exhausted, and with miles and miles to swim before we’re back on dry land. As we look to the horizon and plot our course, we can expect to navigate this crisis in three phases:

1. Manage Risk & Adapt
2. Stabilize & Adjust
3. Grow & Innovate

The phases are similar to those in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the outset of the crisis, we are focused on meeting basic needs. As we come out of the crisis, we desire to get back to self-actualization in the form of innovation and growth. Whatever your status today, it’s important to be aware of these phases and to keep at least one eye on the horizon lest you get stuck in Phase 1 and drift out to sea.

Phase 1: Manage Risk & Adapt
We all entered this phase a couple of weeks ago as the crisis became a reality. Some have sent people home to work remotely. Others have established unprecedented safety measures for essential employees who must continue to deliver necessary goods and services. And still others have had to make the tough decision to lay people off. These are just some of the ways that organizations are managing risk and adapting. During this phase it is important to:

✚ Protect the continuity of critical services (food delivery, medical aid, etc.).
✚ Anticipate and manage health, safety, financial, and cyber risks.
✚ Re-allocate resources (people, money, and energy) to the organization’s core and the most critical products and services.
✚ Identify those people, systems, and capital that will be vital when the crisis ends.

This phase is a dizzying, fast-paced period of constant decision making, redirecting, managing organizational fear, and protecting the organization’s most vital resources to the best of our ability. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. What’s important is to move beyond this tsunami phase and at least get to a temporary safe harbor where you can catch your breath and plot a course.

Phase 2: Stabilize & Adjust
With the initial shock behind us and some, albeit limited, insight into what is yet to come, operations begin to stabilize. Perhaps you’ve pared back significantly or ramped up exponentially. Maybe everyone in your org is getting the hang of working remotely. This phase occurs when daily operations, though perhaps altered, are sustained. This is “the new normal” and it’s within this context that you can move past reacting to the crisis and begin to build an intentional pathway toward a new, if yet uncertain, future.

Develop a short term strategic plan based on what you do know and what you can anticipate. Organizations will necessarily have to deviate from their 2020 strategic plans and revenue goals to weather this crisis. A short term strategic plan is a roadmap for weathering the crisis and positioning for the eventual exit from it.

Phase 3: Grow & Innovate
Your organization can’t stay in the safe harbor of Phase 2 forever. It’s just a temporary port in a storm. The key is to eventually get back on course to reach your strategic growth goals. McKinsey recommends forming a “Plan Ahead Team” separate from your Crisis Team. The Plan Ahead Team will be specifically charged with gathering intelligence on what the world is likely to look like when we come out of this crisis and spotting longer term strategic growth opportunities. They are your lookout – your eyes and ears to help get you back on course.

Consider that growth and innovation require strategic vision with the talent and capital to execute. Making key decisions in Phase 1 & 2 sets you up for success in Phase 3.

Growth and innovation are the true hallmarks of recovery. Only a few organizations will reach this phase quickly. Some will never make it out of crisis mode. Others will just sustain for an extended period. A bold and nimble few will find a way to innovate and grow in the short or mid-term. Those organizations will have adapted quickly, sustained their core foundation, and seized opportunities early in this crisis.

It’s still fairly early – get to your safe harbor, stabilize, and then launch your Plan Ahead Team to map out how you will be among those who rebound with energy and a new approach.

If you need someone to facilitate you through these phases and help position you to come out ahead, reach out to us at www.