The importance of thinking the unthinkable

9 April 2020 Posted by: Patrick Woods Posted In: Risk, Crisis management, client retention


Events surrounding UK politics and COVID-19 have highlighted key person risk. Organisations across
our industry will doubtless have considered this risk when designing their business continuity plans.
Everywhere the robustness of these plans is currently being put to the test and thus far we may feel
they have helped us manage this crisis well. But how prepared are we as leaders if, as seems highly
likely, this crisis gets worse? Have we considered how we might cope with the most likely outcomes
deciding not to think the unthinkable?

• Have I delegated as much of my routine tasks as I can so I can focus on key priorities arising
from the crisis?
• As a leader, what is my personal contingency plan should I become incapacitated?
• Do members of my team also have such a plan in place?
• Have our business priorities been correctly reorganised and what is the process for ensuring
this gets repeated should resources come under further pressure?
• Do we have a plan in place to communicate with customers and stakeholders were they to
experience delays in receiving output from our organisation? Does this plan include what
should happen if such delays become “significant”? 

For service providers there exists other key person risks to consider – the ones at our client
organisations. At one level, it is the possibility that our principal contact there becomes ill and
we do not currently have a relationship with a back-up, or worse still not even know who that
person might be. At an entirely different level, but perhaps as a result of this, there is the risk
that we fail to meet our clients expectations during this crisis and the relationship is irreparably
damaged as a result.

Because it is likely that this crisis will worsen before things begin to improve, there is still time to
revisit the robustness of your contingency plans, both internally and in terms of how you face off
to your customers. So, begin asking questions and probe deeper in your conversations with
colleagues and clients to establish how you might better mitigate these risks.

As we work together to navigate successfully through this crisis, the bonds we establish now will
last forever.

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