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Vishwadeep Khatri

Emergency Responses from Business Leaders

Emergency Response Action is a set of systematic or planned activities that are carried out if any unexpected or dangerous event occurs. The purpose of such actions is to mitigate the impact of the undesirable event on people and the environment

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Vijay Krishnan on 22nd March 2020

 

Applause for all the respondents - Vijay Krishnan, Ram Rajagopalan, Shashikant Adlakha

 

Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.

Question

Q 246. A major threat to businesses and individuals right now is the outbreak of Pandemic due to Coronavirus. What kind of changes/ decisions/ approaches are supported by data/evidences/sound business logic as emergency response actions to the Pandemic? 

 

Answer this question from the point of view of business owners/ leaders.

 

Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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5 answers to this question

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I work for a mid-sized Lighting Solutions firm based in Mumbai with over 200 employees in multiple locations in India and abroad.

 

The Global outbreak of coronavirus has been somehow propitious in forcing us to rethink the several elements of our business to make it more robust to such calamities. The response to such a very unforeseen calamity is surely testing our organizational prowess and making us learn and evolve our strategies with each passing day.

 

The decision taken in mid-February to cancel all international meetings and visit by Senior Management and Sales team with the backdrop of COVID-19 tending to become a global pandemic was very wise. Business visits which were scheduled to Japan and Germany were cancelled. We did not wait for Government notifications but kept a watch on the Global COVID-19 trends to arrive at this decision.    https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus 

 

As a Business Leader the topmost priority in the present situation in India is the safety of our people and to ensure that they’re not exposed to and do not contract COVID-19. We’re primarily based in Maharashtra and with the largest no of COVID-19 confirmed cases in India (64/327 as on 21.03.20; 20%; http://covidout.in/ ) our employees here are at a high risk of getting infected via community transmission in the next phase of the epidemic as has been evident in the spread of the virus in Italy, Iran and Spain. Prevention is always better than cure.

 

Conflicting priority is to ensure continuity of businesss and manage the completion of our pending orders for the month and attain a decent sales revenue for the year ending, which due to multiple challenges of the last quarter has already been much lower than expected.
 
With India’s GDP expectations for 2020-21 being better than this year we would like to harness each and every opportunity the next year presents us to improve our performance manifold by investing in becoming lean and efficient.

 

Business establishments in Mumbai Metropolitan Area where we’ve have our offices and factories has already been shutdown since Saturday, 21st March 2020 till 31st March 2020 and perhaps likely to continue thereafter seeing the upward trend of the number of confirmed cases.

 

Now, as we’re looking at the next 10 days or more to be bound mostly to our homes to ensure social distancing the challenge is to keep the employees informed, engaged and motivated. The following are few of the actions we’ve implemented or are immediately considering:

1.       Risk Management Process is often overlooked and not given prime importance in the company. We’ll use this opportunity to get the management team to seriously discuss and document the risks and prioritise the actions to mitigate them. Disaster Management Plans will have to be fully activated with enabling more people to effectively conduct their work from home.

2.       Part of the manufacturing risk is managed by having factories in different locations and that decision taken earlier has paid off. Ramping up operations in the new facility is to be taken up immediately.

3.       Dependence on China for some of our key parts created a parts shortage earlier this month, we will need to invest on make/source these parts in India.

4.       Sales Review 2019-20 and Business planning 2020-21 will be managed via video conferences in early April instead of meetings. We might make it the norm henceforth to reduce travel expenditure

5.       Travel process automation and engaging a professional company to manage our travel bookings (www.quest2travel.com ) was being considered early this year. We will fast track these projects to make travel more effective and cut-down travel costs.

6.       We’re evaluating a Learning Management System for implementation in April-20 to drive policy dissemination and training to better integrate all our employees located all India and abroad. Focus here will be on training Sales and Field Service Teams on new products, Lighting controls and Installation procedures.

7.       For Production team training has always been a casualty due to pressure for production and delivery at the factories. We will use the next ten days to conduct some key training online and improve the skills of our employees. Focus will be on Problem Solving Techniques and Six Sigma DMAIC.

8.       As a growing company many of our policies and procedures still have some loose ends. Process Owners will be given a target to re-evaluate each process and ensure the adequate interlinks.

9.       We transitioned to SAP but are still not using all the functionalities in the right way or still some elements of the processes is managed by email. This break will be used to create validations and workflows so that more elements of the process is brought within the ambit of SAP. This will enable many more employees to really be effective while working from home.

10.   Last but not the least, we will need to focus on contributing our efforts as a responsible corporate citizen in areas such as product refurbishment, waste management, increasing forest cover and other programmes of regional and national importance to increase our Good Business Karma which we believe is as essential as sound business planning and execution.

 

These are only some of the immediate responses. It would be necessary to create teams and outline responsibilities and clear timelines with constant monitoring from the leaders for us to achieve the above. More actions will be discussed and considered in the coming days.

 Reference Links:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/covid19-coronavirus-countries-infection-trajectory/

http://covidout.in/

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/gdp-growth-seen-at-6-6-5-per-cent-for-2020-21-economic-survey/articleshow/73794803.cms?from=mdr


 

 

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  • What we know with data
    • Exponential growth once it reaches stage 3 with community spread. Repeated patterns on spread vs when curfew is imposed across countries. The more delay/ less strict curfew the higher the infected population
    • Mortality rate by age segment - higher for older people. Infection seems much less for those aged < 20
    • Increased testing identifies patients earlier. Atleast they are quarantined earlier to prevent them from being carriers
    • Most people seem to have only mild symptoms
    • Genetic sequence of the virus
    • The rough timelines the virus can survive on various surfaces and temperature
  • What we don’t know
    • If there is any impact due to weather - temperature, humidity etc. Typically flu spreads during winter season. The spread in tropical climates in Singapore, Australia (Southern Hemisphere has Summer) etc is increasing but lesser than in cold climates in US/Europe.
    • Any drug that can mitigate the symptoms. Lot of names of anti malaria, HIV, Japanese drug etc drugs floated around but no statistical evidence of it
    • Is there a possibility of repeat, that is once this subsides, will it come back later this year/ near future?
    • Do humans build antibodies post recovering from infection? Is there a possibility of re-infection?
    • Can it infect animals?
  • Given this the only solution seems to be
    • Break the chain - social distancing. Avoid unnecessary travels, people interactions
    • Those older than 60 need to stay indoors
    • Hygiene factors - wash your hands with sanitizer and avoid touching face
    • On humanitarian front, lets ensure that all people who are dependent on daily wages are taken care of - housemaids, vegetable vendors etc
    • Avoid hoarding excessively and creating panic. Not everyone can afford huge spikes in prices
    • Check on your employees safety regularly
    • Keep all emergency contact details ready
    • Avoid forwards and rely only on official information
  • How its going to impact future
    • There is going to more adoption and comfort in work from home arrangement
    • Airlines and travel related industries are going to see subdued demand for next 2-3 quarters
    • Big impact on jobs, small and medium size industries and entrepreneurs
    • Stricter border controls imposed by nations, aversion to outsiders
    • Higher adoption of gig economy - more online purchases and delivered at home
    • Higher adoption of digital currency
    • More usage of hand sanitizer
    • World needs a better sharing of information on epidemics and a stronger WHO
    • On a lighter note - lots of people are going to stuck with years worth of toilet papers

I am not posting any graphs/ numbers. There are plenty online. But recommend only to look at known news channels or WHO

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

There are lot more unsubstantiated data online. 

 

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The ongoing Coronavirus infection pandemic  has badly impacted the human life. Apart from the serious morbidity and mortality, this kind of  rapidly spreading and devastating pandemic poses serious threats to the socioeconomic conditions of humans as well.

The economic deterrents  could be in the form of

o   Impeded Capital Access

o   Strained Inventory and Supply Chain  

o   Diminished Customer demand

o   Additional Facility Remediation  and Clean-up Costs 

o   Deterred marketing operations

 

There are various guidelines issued, including the CDC(Centre for disease control) for the business organizations and employers. Business leaders can play a vital role in putting a curb to this pandemic transmission and simultaneously mitigating the loss to their economic wellbeing.

-Put a curb on  transmission Among Employees

 - Sick employees  should be instructed to stay  at home and possible investigations and treatment for them.

 -  Identification of possible areas of infection, periodic cleaning up and sanitizing the facilities

 - Educating employees about  the disease  transmission, ways of prevention and possible complications.   

 

-Sustaining Healthy Business Operations

-     A workplace coordinator appointment for overseeing the COVID 19 related issues and their management.

-     Leave policies and other human resource policies should be made more flexible to be compliant with public health recommendations.

-    Taking a decentralized approach and empowering the managers of  different units  to take decisions based on local conditions and recommendations.

 

 

Contingent business plans and actions:

-Deal with alternate suppliers to maintain supply chain, prioritization of existing customers, critical  and essential operations need to be maintained in all possible scenarios.

-Hiring of temporary employees to maintain the operations and also cross training of existent employees, in the event of spike of absenteeism.

-Delivery of products and services at doorsteps of customers, with appropriate guidelines for the drop up of the products and services.

-Mutual sharing of  business plans and best business practices with peers and business partners.

-Include the pandemics and other natural disasters in FMEAs with emphasis on their control measures.

 Policies and practices for social distancing: Social distancing ,as recommended by different public health and other government agencies should be implemented.  The strategies  could be:

-Remote online  working, including flexible work hours.

-Partitioning and increasing  the space between employees,  between employees and customers.

-Digital advertising and  promotion of products and services, rather than conventional marketing.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

 

First and foremost priority of any business owner/leader will be to ensure the health and safety of their employees and their families. Almost every organization will have Emergency handling procedures, Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery policies.

 

Emergencies do erupt as may types, viz.

  1. Limited to the organization, one or more sites (eg. a Server issue or major failure of certain equipment)
  2. Problem that has affected the region (Eg. Flood or other natural calamity, political issues, epidemic)
  3. Situation that has impacted the entire nation (Eg. Political issues)
  4. Situation that impacts movement / logistics, but not health or safety of employees (Transportation breakdown, connectivity issues)

 

Today, we have a situation that is beyond the limits of those listed above. We have a crisis that is not restricted to geographies but threatens to cripple the entire world. It impacts not only an organization, but its customers and service providers as well. It concerns individual safety and at the same time people are bound by various restrictions imposed mainly in the interest of society at large. Many of the measures undertaken by organization during their past experiences would apply, but current situation probably demands much more, and unlikely to have a comparable past experience.

 

Some of the measures that could be taken and are being exercised by many organizations include:

  1. Streamlining and channelizing communications regarding the current situation. Most reliable information updates are required both by the decision makers and for the overall employees. Make sure every one tunes into a common source of information to avoid unwieldy spread of rumors and confusion.
  2. Identify a emergency handling team who will represent the entire organization for taking key decisions, communicating and leading selected sections during the crisis period. Ensure that this team is introduced to all employees.
  3. While employees may be given the freedom of providing inputs / communications relating to the crisis, ensure that such communications are streamlined through the emergency handling team.
  4. Draft communication to customers and other stakeholders on the company’s strategy to maintain their deliveries and let them know how they would be kept informed about periodic updates.
  5. In the event of limitations on capacities, discuss with clients to understand their priorities, so that the limited capacities can focus on the highest priorities.
  6. Ensure that the organization is well informed and complies with any regulatory requirements by law at any point of time.
  7. Specific to current pandemic, ensure that aggressive measures are taken for ensuring necessary hygiene – viz. Hand sanitizing while entering the work place, frequent wiping of door handles, elevators, staircase railings, conference room furniture, pens, projector remotes, key boards, mouse, restroom faucets and all other points of human contact.
  8. Ensure adequate communication to all employees and visitors about the hygiene practices and provide sufficient visual displays, audio visuals and any other effective means.
  9. Considering that the current pandemic has affected worldwide, one of the common business continuity strategy of providing alternate processing at different geographies  may not be effective.
  10. “Work from Home” is a very popular means adopted by companies where possible depending on the nature of work. This would be possible mostly for certain types of IT companies but would not apply for operations for manufacturing sector.
  11. Even if the company is able to permit limited employees to work in the offices / factories in compliance the regulations, the company has a grave responsibility to protect not only their employees but also any impact to society as well. Adequate check points and action plans need to be evolved to ensure the same.
  12. Necessary notification to the concerned regulatory authorities needs to be provided as required to ensure that the company does not violate any legal requirement.
  13. The emergency team (or core team) has to be in constant touch and should meet through video conferencing or other means everyday or even multiple times during a day to keep updating and reviewing their plans and actions continually
  14. Once the emergency situation eases, the leadership team will have to revisit their annual budgets and review the decisions on capital, new hire and other spend. Revision of strategies regarding product mix, launching of new products etc. will have to be reviewed in view of making up for the lost hours and profits.
  15. It is quite possible that the customers too would have rapid revision of their plans and requirements during the crisis period; it is important for the customer relations personnel to be in touch with them for constant update of their requirements, which need to be linked to the company’s plans and to the available capacities. There has to be real time dashboard which is likely to change dynamically.
  16. Some companies have a practice of collecting a very small amount from every employee and they build a corpus for supporting any employee(s), in the event of getting personally impacted. Such practices may be considered in long run.

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While all responses are valid, I find Vijay Krishnan's response as the winner because it is showing the challenges a business is facing on real time basis and thoughts that the leadership is having at this tough time. Please go through detailed response by Benchmark Expert Venugopal as well. 

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