Prepare for the improbable

N°195a – Synopsis (8p.) – Crisis
Prepare for the improbable
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Companies cannot plan in detail how to respond to unpredictable events. However, merely recognizing the possibility of such events helps to manage their consequences more effectively.

Great scientific and technological strides in recent years have given us the impression that we now live in a world we can understand, predict, manage, and even control. Yet, completely unforeseeable events can and do shake the lives of companies, countries and families alike!

Take the April 2010 Eyjafjöll volcanic eruption which grounded air passengers across the world from one day to the next, the 9/11 terrorist attack which suddenly upset the geopolitical balance, major stock market crashes, etc. In much the same way, businesses may find themselves faced with such disasters as virulent computer viruses, destruction by fire of their headquarters, industrial accidents, the sudden death of a CEO, an epidemic decimating employee ranks, hostile takeovers, the sudden emergence of an aggressive competitor, defects in a leading product necessitating massive recalls, etc.

No one would deny that such things are within the realm of possibility. But taken individually, each of these events appears so improbable that establishing a detailed contingency plan seems like overkill. And there’s the rub: for lack of proper preparation, companies often bear the full brunt of such disasters.

So what do you do when planning is not enough? How do you prepare for events that are by their very nature unpredictable? A look at major disasters sheds interesting light on these questions:

– Accept that improbable events may occur: Expecting the unexpected is the best way to prepare to respond when it finally happens!

– Be ready… and flexible at the same time. Even if there is no way of knowing precisely what will go wrong, certain measures can be taken to protect against the most serious consequences.

– Learn to react quickly, without losing sight of the long term. When disaster strikes suddenly, the speed and quality of response determine the gravity of the consequences.

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