What does business resilience look like during a global pandemic?

Image: Neil Thomas at Unsplash

Over the past few months, I have been wondering how an organisation actually prepares for a global pandemic. How many corporate strategic risk registers have now been updated with ‘pandemic’ or ‘black swan event’?

There’s one sure-fire way for organisations to endure a sustained loss of income: have lots of cash lying around.

“It’s no accident… The other airlines are loaded up in debt. They have no choices. We have more than a billion in cash, so we have all kinds of options.”

Having a strong balance sheet is how Working Heritage has thrived during COVID-19. It’s how we’re able to proactively offer rent relief to our tenants, and have been able to go ahead with major infrastructure projects like Jack’s Magazine. We are doing our bit to hold up the Victorian economy.

Yet, I wouldn’t recommend every organisation to hold onto six months worth of cash in case of an extraordinary event. That money needs to be out there driving innovation, keeping people employed, and delivering valued services.

The Guardian had an article today that helped me connect some dots. Some countries — Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam — have navigated COVID-19 remarkably well, despite not having the resources of Australia, the UK and the United States. Clear messaging has proved essential. To quote NUS Prof Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network at the World Health Organization:

“When you have any country with a weak leadership then people get confused. They’re not sure what to do and who to believe, and then you legitimise ignorance…”

Our businesses, community service organisations, corporations exist within society. They will bounce back when society purposefully and cohesively responds to the pandemic — together we will string up the safety net and overcome the peak as fast as possible.

Systemic and pervasive shocks and stresses like pandemic, like climate change, shouldn’t be (only) the responsibility of individual organsations to be ready for. We are all invested in the resilience of our society. It’s the difference between a business trying to survive two months of lockdown, or six months.

How does an organisation update its business continuity plan for global pandemic? By working constructively and proactively towards a resilient and just society.

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