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When a pandemic hits, your organization needs resilient crisis management

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Minna Janhonen

Minna Janhonen is an organizational development and human resources professional who coaches companies into lean and agile methodologies.


20 mars 2020 · 2 min lästid

How will we handle these tricky coronavirus effects, that might affect our workplace, ponders many leaders nowadays. What happens, if many of us are ill at the same time; how do we secure critical operations; how pandemic affects to our profit?

According to theories of organizational resilience, during the crisis, the organization phases three different stages, each of which requires a different kind of leadership.

  1. In the first phase, also known as the acute crisis, it is important to maintain the capacity of action to run daily operations.

  2. After the acute crisis-stage follows recovery-phase where the organization is moving back towards the pre-crisis state.

  3. In the third step, the organization adapts to the change

In this blog, we’ll give you five guidelines on how to survive the first phase through leadership and maintain the capacity of action in an acute crisis. The guidelines are based on organizational resilience research. Resilience is an ability that helps individuals and organizations to survive in changes and succeed in a world of uncertainties.

Five guidelines to leaders: how to keep up capacity of action in a crisis situation

  1. Empathy. The crisis always affects one’s feelings, and feelings are often more powerful than knowledge. This is why it is essential first to hear the sorrows and burdens, and after that have a fact-based discussion on the next steps.

  2. Take over the situation. Strong situation awareness is one of the prerequisites with which the capacity of action can be kept up. What is the real situation, what attributes and viewpoints are attached to it, what are the main risks? Discuss with people so you can compose a multifaceted and truthful picture of the situation. Communicate rather too much than too little.

  3. Prioritize. Make a justified prioritization list together to visualize what are the most critical issues to take care of, and make sure that the capacity of action is maintained to run these things in every situation. For example, in the case of a pandemic, how do you ensure that there are enough people to secure critical functions, even though the level of sick leaves might rise.

  4. Do an action plan and act. Consider alternative models together with your workmates on how the situation can proceed. Still, progress the selected actions in a determined way – in a crisis, there rarely is time for endless pondering. The selected actions are based on current knowledge and need some courage to be fulfilled.

  5. Prepare and be agile and adaptive. Even though you have a good situation awareness, action plans, and prioritization, things don’t necessarily go as smoothly as they could. Agile practices, like retros, feedback loops, and small batch size make quick changes of direction possible when needed.

We will cover guidelines for leadership in recovery and adaptation phases of the crisis in the upcoming blog posts so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, read more about organizational resilience:

Annarelli, Alessandro and Nonino, Fabio (2016): Strategic and operational management of organizational resilience: Current state of research and future directions. Omega, 62, 1-18.

Seville, Erica (2017): Resilient organizations: How to survive, thrive and create opportunities through crisis and change. Kogan Page: London, Philadelphia, New Delhi.

Skriven av

Minna Janhonen

Minna Janhonen is an organizational development and human resources professional who coaches companies into lean and agile methodologies.