What Does Crisis Management Mean To You & Your Company?

Main topics

  • How much were you and your company prepared to handle a type of situation like COVID-19?
  • What did you and your company do as first steps going into this?
  • How did you all pull together?
  • What are you and your company going to start doing moving forward?

Information sources

  1. Partnering, not selling - article about adjusting how you think about 'sales' in times like these.
  2. Ignore the Productivity Pressure - stages of a crisis – a good article from someone who grew up in crisis, and explains the different stages that we are all going through, and what to expect. We found that it took the pressure off a bit.
  3. Purposeful Optimism - How to grow your capacity to adapt – one of our key lessons is to ‘push into what is real now’, not the way it was. This blog written by our Co-founder provides 4 principles to improve how an organisation can adapt during challenging times.
  4. What should I do next? Finding action in hard places - this uses 5 lessons we have learned from operating in conflict and crisis environments as a roadmap to organise thinking and action for ‘what to do next’ when there seems too much comprehend.
  5. Basic Response Framework - more details on people, finance, business continuity, and situation management.
  6. Be a convenor, and thought leader - this is an example we are doing in Africa of trying to generate new ideas and bring people together in response to the crisis.
  7. Good daily source for coronavirus effects on UK business - CBI is a non-profit organisation that has daily updates and advice for UK businesses.
  8. Common issues, considerations, and options for COVID response - It is a bit overengineered in my opinion, but offers a very comprehensive overview of all the aspects a business should consider, and provides summaries of the different UK gov. financial initiatives. I think you need to sign up to get it, but it is free. https://www.pwc.co.uk/issues/crisis-and-resilience/covid-19/support-uk-business-economic-impact-of-coronavirus-covid-19.html
  1. More details on all the UK gov finance and tax options
  2. Advice for Small businesses and self-employed

Meeting notes

Hello world :)

Intro notes:

  • Lots of uncertainty at the moment
  • How is everyone battling the situation at the moment? Learn best practices
  • Companies currently going through redundancies and furloughing > approaching the end of runway so needing to manage cashflow and cut costs
  • How to do the planning, also what comes next?


Wasafiri - consulting firm, specialise in leading clients through complex problems (incl. Extreme poverty, food systems, strat dev etc.). Speciality - crisis and conflict management.

How do we collectively build a better response to this situation?

Everyone is coming to this from different places. Some need to adjust a bit more than others; some have already done some planning before.


  • Strong health & safety policies and mechanisms in place already
  • Identified that this is a crisis pretty fast / far down the road
    • A small thing can become a big problem very fast
  • Being small & agile allows for agility and flexibility
  • Used to WFH environment already
  • Taking a human-centered approach to business: recognising all the different employee circumstances (personal and professional) that they bring into the work environment
  • But even then - this has been a huge shock to the company personally and professionally (drops in revenue, pipeline, etc)

What did you and your company do as first steps going into this?

  1. Manage the situation  - what data and structures do we need to monitor the situation. What existing structures do we have to support the new and changing situation? What new ones do we need?
    1. HR policies
    2. Leadership groups
    3. Communication mechanisms
    4. COVID Response team reports to leadership and the entire business, but does not make decisions. Made up of key stakeholders across the biz, but very small, only 4 people (Managed by Ops)
      1. manages inflow and outflow of information regarding the crisis,
      2. tests the mood and morale of employees,
      3. ensures effective communication to team and consultants,
      4. Reports to the domain owners of People, Finance, Commercial and Leadership Group
      5. and adapts to the changing environment.
  2. People - Whole business response to the crisis - 'we are in this together' - Human-centred approach to business, meaning that we recognise the whole person as an employee, and all the outside life circumstances that people have. We have a very supportive culture, almost like a family, that the business and everyone in it supports each other during normal times. Having this culture gives us the foundation to provide emotional and circumstantial support during these wild times. If you don't have this, now is a perfect time to start as we are all forced into the melding of work/life balance like never before and probably never again.
    1. Culture of listening and adapting, allow for lower productivity and adjusting to the shock
    2. Recognise the blending of home/work life
    3. Transparent communication - good and bad, plans and progress,
    4. The more decisions employees have to control their own lives, the more empowered and productive they feel. For example, people with kids who now need to homeschool are opting to dial their contracts down by 50-90%.
  3. Finance - what financial forecasting information do you have, what new data do you need? How to get the best quality data?
  4. Business continuity - Focus on short-term - times are too unpredictable to forecast anything beyond a month (for us). What needs to continue, what needs to stop, what needs to change? Our ONLY focus during this time:
    1. Delivery on existing projects that can still operate - work with clients to adapt them as much as possible
    2. Cutting overheads - everything that is unnecessary is gone, staff time reduced if/where possible (also on voluntary basis, for now)
    3. Whole company shift to biz/dev - everyone is focused on how to develop partnerships, initiate creative thinking, and support client facing personnel (example, what can we take off people's plates internally to allow others to shift more efforts towards communications, proposal development, collaborative thought partnerships, etc…)
    4. Instinct is to contract, and become very insular; once your crisis management structure is in place, then it is time to really reach out through existing networks and clients

Creative, thoughtful, and supportive business development is our way through this, here are some ideas that we have discussed (not discussed during the call, but thoughts Wasafiri has been having):

  • Focus on being thought partners, collaborators, sources of high quality information, be a trusted partner and allow them to be yours (two way street).
  • Who are the clients and partners we need to bring together to brainstorm our way through this? What cool collaborations could be formed during this that benefits everyone on the other side? How can we facilitate those relationships?
  • Have bold conversations with clients, partners, - People need more help to figure out what next.
  • Time frames are shorter - what will people need in 3 months time
  • Lots more noise out there - only produce high quality, well thought out, precise communications
  • Try to adapt existing contracts to fit the situation
  • Form or be a part of 'working groups' of similar orgs
  • Be ready to adapt even if you are not sure how yet
  • Focus on existing clients and networks - Hard to identify new clients at the moment
  • We need to provide ideas -we need to be thought leaders and partners
  • Consider strategic pro-bono work - though very limited and with short time frames with strategic clients
  • More appetite for lower value/shorter term work
  • Collaborative design groups - who to get in touch with, who can support it, and what is the need we should to tackle
  • Focus on things that are in our control - if we can't control it, we can't worry about it
  • Creating flexibility within our own roles - how can everyone assist the 'new mission'

How early on you need a written continuity plan?

  • Put a bare bone structure in place
  • If you have more detail in your initial crisis management structure it gets thrown out of the window. Try to have a structure/framework and adapt to every single situation.

It’s the responsibility of the COVID/Crisis response group to feed information to all the teams who are trying to make the decisions. E.g. understanding the context in different countries…getting all the information we need to understand how people are doing. How do we keep our business safe = interacting with people who lead on the projects (e.g. how the projx changed, how do you feel they’d change, etc.)

Most companies don’t have a crisis response because normally there are very few crises like this.

Did your company have something like this in place?

  • Mainly not; used to making big decisions on a daily basis. Didn’t segment things to make the response very clear.
  • “Figuring it out on the fly”
  • When you’re in it already, it’s hard to think, come up with a plan, put things in place

People shouldn’t change their entire business model to be able to adapt to things like this. But would be smart to learn a few things from this

What is the company we wanna be when we come out of this / reach the other end of this? What do we want to be remembered for during this crisis? E.g. maintain certain values, make an impact, be flexible. This thinking is helpful for decision making but also for morale. Knowing that this is going to end.

  • Business that exists (there’s revenue stream)
  • Business that is helping people / having positive impact in the community

There has to be an owner of every single project and overcommunication. Your communication has to quadruple. The communication to your personnel has to be at a much faster rate.

The struggle is the unknownness of when this is going to end - when do we even start to plan for the end? Is it better to wait, or do we need to start planning for normalcy now?

Trying to predict long-term in the future is no use in the crisis situation. Focus on one thing at a time. Unfortunately that’s the only thing we can do/control. Anything else in the future is so overwhelming. Just focus what we’re doing for the next 4 weeks. Then: analyse, make the adjustments that we need to.

Balancing between understanding business reality (e.g. we might not have jobs in 4 weeks) vs employee wellbeing (take time to take care of yourself).

  • Seems that some people are doubling their output in these times
  • Duty as a manager to allow people get back to the stability/normality
  • Should I as a manager now allow the buffer time / set expectations that the work still has to be done? Is this too much to ask, am I not asking enough?
  • Lean on your company values.
  • Put people first - how are they managing this? Let’s have that discussion and see if they need to make any changes.
  • Be very transparent around state of play of the organisation.

On furloughing:

  • Things shouldn’t happen too quickly
  • Make sure to overcommunicate, allow the furloughed people to have 1on1s with their managers
  • Take care of your people so that they remain within the organisation as your behaviour in the moment can influence their and their colleagues/friends decisions

On managing people in crisis:

  • Recognise that not everyone has the same personal situation
  • Just ask your people what they need in order to adjust their lives (e.g. dialling down their contracts by 50%, 10%)
  • Communicate in a respectful way
  • Even if it’s a difficult conversation with poor outcomes, have that conversation

What do you need in your organisation to manage this better?

  • We’re used to being in a situation of having answers all the time. Now it’s not the case, but we’ve still got the pressure of having those answers as employees/companies.Now we have a crisis that no one really knows how to deal with. Not everyone is even using the word crisis!
  • Would be good to have a plan, even if one month at a time, so you can work through the actions.
  • Frameworks on what other businesses can do - e.g. setting up a crisis team that’s not a decision making team. Those frameworks are helpful to guide people/companies.
  • Framework/structure and suggestions for the meetings, e.g. how long they should be, should we intro new ones with HR/People, should we talk about parenting and create an open space for employees, etc.
    • Half hour every week, it’s optional, people just show up, you talk about how it’s going. E.g. share homeschooling tips, etc. - just show up and chat.
    • Getting input from the team; allowing team members to create their own teams. There are conversations that you don’t need to be involved (e.g. parents’ group)
  • How do you go back to normality; when do you know that the crisis is over?
    • Feel like we’re gonna dial everyone’s time back; keep everyone’s function going so when we start coming out of this the machine has all the pieces to operate and you just need to rev it back up. Ensure not to lose any significant pieces along the way. So when you want to ramp things up you can.
    • Sell our way through this. Proactively manage bizdev through this crisis. Focus on being thought partners with our clients, other organisations, how can we be good sources of information for our partners / be there for them. We don’t know what’s gonna be needed afterwards, but if you create the trust and the relationship now (not selling anything NOW), you can reap the rewards later. It’s about strengthening those relationships. Develop the right coalitions of people. Connect different clients, partners, who could produce relationships/partnerships that are impactful in the future.

What’s the most efficient way to work virtually? How to maintain productivity, culture?

  • DailyBot Slack bot firing questions to everyone in your team (what did you learn today, what do you want to achieve tomorrow)
  • Don’t forget to restart a laptop every now and then! :D

3 types of decision making. All decisions include some degrees of efficiency, robustness, and inclusivity. When making a decision, it can be helpful to consider what type of decision (or degree of) are you trying to make? Before making a decision, think whether it needs to be:

  1. Efficient - should the decision be made quickly? Is there already an owner of this decision? If the decision has lower impact across the biz, or if there are structures and leaders who already own this decision-making area, then you can lean towards efficiency.
  2. Robust - do you have the information you need to make this decision? Is it ok to make a semi-informed decision on the matter? If not, then more research needs to be done either by speaking to people or online investigation.
  3. Inclusive - is it a decision that will affect many people in your organisation? If so, then the process for making it should lean towards the inclusive side, getting input from a wide variety of people. This takes more time and effort to do, but ultimately strengthens company-wide ownership and buy-in for the decision.

Nobody knows what they’re doing. This is the first time something like this has happened. You’ve got to get used to a certain level of uncertainty/ambiguity. You’re doing okay. But here’s what else you can implement :)

For ops managers - we do like to solve problems and have things in order, so for us it’s difficult! But you can get used to it. It’s the level of acceptance of this ambiguity that has to take place first :)

“The biggest problem of communication is the illusion that it has taken place” - George Bernard Shaw

Mike Strange:

  1. Structures: revenue and community workstreams.

Question on (2) focussing your people and transparent messaging. Struggling to balance “we need to work hard as we’re losing cash on a runway right now” vs “please look after yourself and take time”

Marta :D notes

How early on you need a written continuity plan?

Identify changes in the market.

Health insurance and what it covers


  • Astrid/Ausrine: collate all the OS Slack channel info / send out in an email
  • Michael Strange: share some notes on mental health for employees
  • Scott: share a framework/plan of crisis management for organisations