Building readiness and agility for the next major crisis


We are all going through tough times as we experience the global Covid-19 pandemic.

I am sorry to disappoint you but it is not a question of if we will face a future major crisis or pandemic but a question of when.

Our ability to survive, personally and commercially, depends on complex, diverse factors both under and outside our control. This requires strong leadership and coherent, clear authoritative communication to be prepared and agile to adapt to dynamic, uncertain challenges.

What is a crisis?

Typically, a crisis (or major emergency) include “natural” (e.g. earthquake, animal and human diseases, crop failure) or “man-made” (e.g. war, food adulteration, arson, cyber-crime etc) threats and is defined as:

“An unusual, predicted or unpredicted event, creating an imminent or future significant threat to the business (infrastructure, employees, product supply including raw materials), its products e.g. petfood and its stakeholders (employees, customers, community).”

Any type of crisis might show some common features and follow a series of linked events each with different challenges:

  • People are forced out of their “comfort zone” due to limited or zero experience of crises
  • Businesses are taken into the “unknown” with changing, evolving situations making decision making difficult
  • People experience “high” stress and anxiety affecting mental health
  • Increased consumer concerns about availability of essentials like petfood and if it is safe

Demonstrating trust should be a core part of BCP and crisis management. Although challenging during a crisis, trust takes a long time to build but can be destroyed in a very short time. What happens if consumers lose trust in your ability to supply safe petfood but your competitor has been more proactive to reassure customers and maintain trust?

It is business critical therefore that we exert control in a way that is positive to help us survive and offers potential business efficiency improvement through new ways of working.

Although it has been tough, we can all learn from CV-19 enabling us to better prepare for future crises by looking at what we are doing now and using this to build resilience ready for the next crisis i.e. what worked, what didn’t work, what can we do better?

Avoiding complacency bias

Sadly the “It will never happen here” or complacency bias scenario, where we do not believe a failure will happen, cost many lives in World War 2. Failure to detect threats like enemy submarine torpedo attack, on the basis that people believed it would never happen, cost many lives and great loss of shipping. On a positive note, it resulted in building future resilience by developing better “early warning” systems to detect early potential threats and take avoiding action.

Nobody likes talking about the tragic consequences of war but this teaches us about “complacency bias” helping us develop preparedness and mindfulness for future crises.

Complacency bias teaches us how horizon scanning failure to detect future threats leaves us ill prepared when a crisis happens. To mitigate against this, our BCP must include vulnerability assessment.

For example, CV-19 has identified many vulnerabilities including:

  • Raw materials supply and quality risk management – Supply chains constraints e.g. shortages, increased the quality failure and food fraud risks. What are your raw material risk management systems and how can they operate on a remote basis?
  • Staff shortages – Staff shortages and vulnerabilities affecting all areas of the petfood supply chain, including raw material supply, production, quality management and logistics.
  • Contract services – Potential pre-requisite program failure e.g. external laboratory or contract cleaning, might increase risks of food safety failure
  • Food fraud – May 2020 adulteration of human meats with horse meat highlights that fraud of all types increases during a crisis. Food fraud can cause food safety failure and results in loss of consumer trust. Are our food fraud systems (VACCP) up to date and do we have appropriate controls in place?

Taking positives from a crisis to increase preparedness for future crises

Nobody wants a crisis, due to economic and societal costs but experience from crises like CV-19, earthquakes and Ebola helps us to prepare for the next crisis.

In general terms, survival is improved when we learn and develop these key attributes:

  • Preparedness – including horizon scanning and vulnerability analysis
  • Agility
  • Leadership
  • Communication

In a famous quote attributed to Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most adaptable to change.”

The question is, “How well prepared are you for the next crisis?”

(This blog was adapted from the article “It is not a question of if but when” by David Primrose and Dr Paola Cane, published in “Feed Compounder – Pet Food Supplement; Issue 22, June 2020)

Are your business continuity plans ready for the next crisis?

The Coronavirus pandemic has been very challenging and affected all aspects of our personal, business, and economic lives. However, there are positives that can be taken from the crisis that can help us be more resilient and agile in the next major crisis, including new business and operational opportunities.

To help you better understand how to build resilience and prepare for the next crisis, contact us to discuss how Synergy Petfood can help your business agility and crisis management planning.