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In this age of COVID-19, what better place to look for insight than where a significant milestone of scientific progress occurred in combating germs?

Louis Pasteur, the man who gave the world pasteurization observed the following: “Dans les champs de l'observation, le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares,” which translates to: “In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”

To leap over the bar of practice at the time, into a world we would all recognize (pasteurized milk, sterilization, etc.) Pasteur stood on the shoulders of many who preceded him, deriving and proving out the germ theory of disease1.  Pasteur made the world a little bit safer from the invisible microbes all around us.

The world after Pasteur was not the same. Much as it will not be the same after COVID-19.

In fact, Pasteur’s contribution is the invisible thread connecting the new vocabulary and precautions we have picked up during the last six months in this new pandemic world order—everything from the N-95 mask, to face-coverings (that are now mandated by some U.S. state governments), to handwashing, and 6-foot social distancing guidelines.

Now, preparation is a central theme for us who work in operational resiliency.

The first learnings on the topic are already rolling in from the frontline of resiliency practice.  The observations come from the experience immediately following the declaration of a pandemic, they relate to the experience of taking unprecedented and in some cases, highly improvised maneuvers with a legion of employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to protect the health and safety of all involved.

“You know it's interesting,” Lisa Jones, Vice President of the BCI, USA Chapter, told us recently. “The internal groups that were most concerned with the inherent risk they carried in their operation—the ones like customer service where there were many systems involved and specialized equipment being used, etc.—those were the groups to work with us early and on their own initiative complete risk and impact assessments. And because we had completed those efforts together, these leaders and managers had just received back the results of some early exercises and testing.”

“They were able to understand where their preliminary exposures were and move swiftly to deploy stop-gap fixes as the fast-moving corona virus started hitting the news in mid-February,” she said. “Sure, we had to make a lot of adjustments since March, but it was so fluid and these early folks have really led the way for us across the organization. That is one of my takeaways for when we get back to business as usual.”

Resiliency and Leadership

We can all benefit from this takeaway: early leaders show us the direction the rest of the organization can go. They have an intuitive understanding that risk is inherent in operations. They cannot see it, but they know it is there. And even though the prevailing march of daily work requires their attention, they are open to taking a closer look, probing to “find it in the lab,” in a manner of speaking.

With the help of resiliency practitioners, these invisible forces in your organizational setting can be brought to light. And once the risk kinetics are well understood, you can translate understanding in the lab into counter measures to deploy across your organization to prevent harm from these risk pathogenics.

The oft-quoted refrain among many leaders tasked with managing risk is: “We don't have time, and we certainly don’t have time in the middle of a crisis to do a business impact analysis (BIA). Even if we did, we definitely don't have time to exercise and test.”

The Resiliency Solution

Well, now resiliency practitioners have an answer. They can offer their expertise and hands-on help in their “labs.” And if that is not persuasion enough, then offer the example of the early leaders who truly drove resiliency during that high-flux period in late March 2020.

Some of the other practitioners who have spoken with us add, “It looks like this might be a carrots-and-stick situation. Frankly, I don’t think after the COVID chaos, it's just the crisis, continuity or risk practitioner pulling the laboring oar on de-risking the organization anymore.... it's going to be our board and our executives who have been most sensitized to operational exposures, that had gone untended.”

We can all take this insight with us as we look forward to a return to normal operations. Let us look to the first opportunity to showcase leaders—the ones who thrived in the middle of uncertainty—and draw from their examples.

If we draw on the insight of where we were the most prepared and how we emerged into light, everyone wins.

Pasteur's legacy runs like a golden thread through all the activity in the medical sciences underway to meet COVID-19’s challenge.  The face-covering motto says it all, “Your mask protects me and my mask protects you.”  In a fight against an invisible, common enemy, there is no you and me; there is only we.

The New “Normal”

We can all take our newly inquired insight with us as we look forward to a return to normal operations, where we should look to the first opportunity to showcase leaders—the ones who thrived in the middle of uncertainty—and draw from their examples.

Unfortunately, we may be living in a new “normal” going forward.

“Going ‘back to normal’ will probably take months (or years) and we should get ready to deal with an extremely uncertain situation for a long time,” said Alberto Mattia CEO of Panta Ray. “This crisis may become less intense, but still produce its negative effects and eventually become a sort temporary ‘new normality.’”

If we draw on the insight of where we were the most prepared and how we emerged into light, everyone wins.

And like Pasteur's legacy that runs like a golden thread in all the activity in the medical sciences to meet COVID-19’s challenge, the face-covering motto says it all, “Your mask protects me and my mask protects you.”

In a fight against an invisible enemy, there is no you and me; there is only we.

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[1] See generally, Germ Theory of Disease, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease (last visited: Apr. 22, 2020).

Topics: Business Continuity| Pandemic Preparedness

Assurance Software

Written by Assurance Software

Assurance Software takes your company’s enterprise-wide business continuity and resiliency program to the next level. With Assurance as your go-to partner for continuity and resilience, you can confidently mitigate risk, manage recovery, and safeguard your employees, customers, operations and brands.

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