BLOG SERIES: Decision-making in the face of uncertainty
The problem is this is not BAU. COVID-19 is teaching us all to be agile and brought new meaning to managing risks in a dynamic environment. Catastrophic consequence assumes a whole new significance in the COVID-19 world. While the pandemic was a foreseeable event, coined Disease X by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018, few predicted its global impact in reducing international air travel to a standstill in April 2020 and its effects on global economic activity.
Now four months later, we see how world leaders have stepped up (or not) to the mark. Those acting decisively, in a measured and informed manner, have their citizens’ attention and respect. Those leaders that didn’t step up, evidenced by the rates of infection and death, suffer division and hardship in their countries. Leadership tone was so important in getting the right community behaviours in a time of crisis. The cultural shift in taking COVID-19 seriously can simply be put down to people having trust in their leaders to do the right thing based on informed decision making, which was the best available information. Does this sound familiar?
The ISO 31000:2018, Risk Management Standard, has eleven principles. It states Risk Management:
- Is an integral part of all organisational processes
- Is part of decision making
- Is systematic, structured and timely
- Explicitly addresses uncertainty
- Is based on the best available information
- Is tailored
- Is transparent and inclusive
- Takes human and cultural factors into account
- Is dynamic, iterative, and responsive to change
- Facilitates continual improvement
- Establishes and sustains value (more on this later)
How Covid-19 has been managed around the world is playing out as a case study in how to navigate through unchartered territory.
British pubs were busier than ever on March 20th until the announcement to shut all eateries and pubs later in the day. The British PM described this decision as “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub”.
India’s PM gave its 1.3 Billion citizens 4 hours notice on March 24th for its 3 week total lockdown in their homes. This decision was necessary to contain the virus. The images of workers walking hundreds of miles back home clearly showed the resilience of a nation.
We must not forget the example led by China when they locked down Wuhan and quarantined 11 million people on January 23rd with nearly 60 million people under lock down from the province of Hubei by January 24th. At the time, few would have predicted that such a strategy was a necessary evil.
The pandemic is teaching us many lessons. People need to know that they can trust their leaders. Leaders need to find ways to gain that trust through effective decision making. The trust gained enables multi-pronged approaches to collectively tackle the crisis successfully. This sentiment echoes Lawrence Gostin, Director of the World Health Organisation’s Center on Global Health Law, who says, “the trust and co-operation of the public is the most important thing for officials to have in a public (health) crisis”.
The lessons we have learnt and still learning are that people, businesses and communities are resilient.
Fortunately, this crisis also presents many opportunities. Surviving companies will be the ones making sustainable transformational changes. Let us help you:
- Assess your corporate culture. Is it where you need it to be to embark on transformational change?
- Facilitate communication of strategic objectives so all parts of the business are also aligned with the company’s strategic direction.
- Understand your business processes and its pain points. What did you learn during the pandemic; did your Supply Chain cope with the unforeseen challenges? Did you have good relationships with your suppliers?
- Develop robust governance frameworks to cope with staff absences, remote working etc.
- Identify risks and opportunities in a structured, cohesive and collegial manner.
Effective risk management creates and protects value by applying the principles above.
Anne Cheng, Risk Advisory Specialist,