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By Devin Sirmenis, Witt O’Brien’s:

I’m looking at corporate resilience disciplines (business continuity, crisis management, crisis communications) and how they will be prioritized and invested in as the pandemic extends into 2021. I’ve had clients and colleagues tell me multiple times, like I’m sure you have heard over the last eight months, that they feel like they are stuck in a dream, some sort of endless, repeating loop. Fatigued and drained, just keeping things going. I describe the feeling like the start of a journey, looking at a two-lane highway stretching out across the land, disappearing as it meets up with the horizon in the formidable distance.

Envision driving east to west, across the entirety of Texas on I-10. Some recoil at the thought of it, thinking through how long they will be trapped in the car. Others get excited as they focus on where they are going, what awaits them on the other side. Lately, those resilience leaders I find myself in the car with are collectively focusing on what awaits in 2021 and preparing for it.

Lucid Resilience. Have you ever heard the mantra, “Mind awake. Body asleep. Mind awake. Body asleep.”? It looks at the phenomenon of lucid dreaming – having the awareness to realize that you are in a dream, which in turn gives you the ability to interact with it, take actions, and in some ways, control it.

Some studies equate the lucid dreamer, or lucidity, to people that generally have more insight into their current environment, current state of affairs. I link this back to my opening commentary and what I am seeing proactive resilience leaders and practitioners doing as they shake off the fatigue of 2020.

Workshops. For those organizations that are truly too fatigued, and the willingness is just not there across stakeholders to conduct an annual crisis management exercise, focus and attention should be placed on facilitating a workshop to take a critical look at what worked and what areas for improvement exist in terms of plans, processes, or people skills supporting resilience functions.

Launch a pre-workshop survey to capture thoughtful individual input. Quickly assess the individual input and synthesize it into themes to be explored during open discussion with the group in the workshop. This should help the group identify and agree upon necessary changes and gain a better understanding of any overlooked dependencies. Time is of the essence for these. Those companies that gather this intelligence sooner than later will be at a more advantageous starting point to implement changes in 2021.

Revamping risk analyses. Some clients are working within the brutal truth of COVID-19: significant downsizing, office closures, office consolidations, RIFs, etc. Those that remain have realized that the organization that business continuity plans and processes were built around no longer looks the same.

Start with relooking at your critical processes, across functional departments. Use your internal subject matter experts to help think through, “if my process stopped, what are the ‘impacts’?” “What people and/or resources do we really need to ensure our processes are able to continue?” Do not go too deep into each process. Try to capture them at a high level: ‘Controllership’ versus ‘revenue, joint interest billing, accruals for operating and capital expenditures, calculating and requesting payment for royalties, severance tax’. Look at who owns the process day to day, and if they are not available, who is their alternate/back up? The risk analysis should produce Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) aligned to what your organization looks like today. Details can then be used to rework or develop a business continuity plan. Once completed internally, extend this risk analysis to your third-party vendors.

Staff-up and/or hire strategically. Too many companies are asking one person, or one team, to lead crisis management, crisis communications, business continuity, enterprise risk and emergency management. The subject matter, content and expertise needed across these disciplines is diverse, and often times very distinct. 2021 budgets need to include line items for additional hires, contracted consultant support, or temporary staff that can help achieve short-term program goals or accomplish tactical/operational needs.

Impacts from COVID-19 should have shown where the application of temporary or additional resources are needed. Should you have been managing additional business interruptions or a company-wide crisis in 2020, on top of the pandemic, you are acutely aware of where extra arms and legs are needed. Seek relief by asking for three-month or six-month budget bumps to improve responsiveness and preparedness.

Resilience as a managed service. For those companies not large enough to have dedicated teams across the resilience disciplines, some resilience service providers are revamping past-industry-efforts to bundle business continuity, crisis management and communications capabilities into an affordable ‘managed service‘ offering. While not as customized as more developed support programs – well-organized, simple processes and implementable checklists are included in these offerings.

The better-value managed service offerings also include stand-by teams that can parachute in and help you during an actual event. Some even include the establishment of a 24/7 #800 line – backed by established ‘watch-standers’ that coordinate with internal teams to ignite your process to effectively manage an event.

About the Author: Devin Sirmenis is Managing Director of Corporate Resilience for Witt O’Brien’s. He is also the host of the ‘PandemicBuzz’ podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, etc. – where he has explored corporate pandemic efforts, states of mind, and paths forward with resilience leaders from Facebook, Shell, MIT, Humana, and other thought-leading organizations. He can be reached at Witt O’Brien’s has been an innovator in resilience since 1983. Learn more about its crisis management and business continuity expertise here (

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