Leadership in Crisis and Planning for a Post-Pandemic World

June 1, 2020 Judi Hess


We are living in a time of unprecedented change. Natural disasters, regulatory changes, and global pandemics like COVID-19 are redefining how we do business. Organizations are being pushed to the breaking point as they try to adapt while continuing to deliver on their commitments to customers and shareholders.

Fortunately, well-honed business continuity plans have allowed utilities to react swiftly and safely. However, uncertainties around budgets, load profiles, and service delivery are forcing them to revisit their plans as they try to understand the impact of project delays and mounting financial and resource constraints. All of these factors will have sweeping impacts on their risk profiles and business objectives. How can utilities build realistic, executable plans to manage these changes today while effectively preparing for a post-pandemic world?

While preparing for my annual keynote address for the Copperleaf Asset Investment Planning and Management (AIPM) Summit a few weeks ago, I spent some time researching global pandemics and pandemic planning—and I was struck by the ways asset investment planning is similar to pandemic planning! First, crisis leadership—or any leadership for that matter—is about getting out ahead and planning for the future.

The most effective leaders in crises ensure that someone else is managing the present while focusing their attention on leading beyond the crisis towards a more promising future.

Harvard Business Review

Second, we cannot afford to wait for better data to decide what to do! Organizations must become agile decision makers and take advantage of the data that is available to adapt their plans and keep pace with rapidly changing business realities. We need to accept that the data and models will not be perfect, but we must take action anyway. The impact of those decisions won’t be seen for months, but if we continually wait for better data, it will be too late.

Third, having the ability to quickly and easily model a variety of what-if planning scenarios to examine different strategies is critical. This allows businesses to decide on the best course of action and adapt plans to address new challenges as they arise. This gives them the ability to plan—and replan—quickly.

Copperleaf recently partnered with our client, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), in a webinar hosted by Utility Dive. Miranda Alldritt, President, Copperleaf Americas, provided an overview of four pandemic planning stages for business, and Paul Barnett, Senior Program Manager, Transmission at TVA, shared how TVA is responding to the impacts of COVID-19 in each of these areas. Here’s a short recap of the discussion.

 

Communication & Safety
This includes communicating to your teams, identifying immediate threats to employees and customers, identifying the urgent essential work, and finding new ways to work safely. Paul explained how TVA worked to leverage technology and create emergency response plans that could be executed remotely. “The big challenge was defining the work we were doing and the work we were not doing. We were trying to do that remotely and rapidly.”

Stabilization
As organizations adapt to the new way of working, they should seek to understand the short-term and long-term impact on their projects, systems, asset risk position, resources, and finances. With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created, it’s important to evaluate a multitude of possible scenarios and how resources may need to be shifted in response.

Planning for Recovery
Organizations in this stage need to redefine their plans to encapsulate new priorities, uncertainty, economic factors, and safety needs while still aligning to long-term goals. Paul highlighted how TVA’s value framework is helping to drive alignment as they shift their focus from financial constraints to human factors.

Making sure that we’re doing the right work, at the right time, in the right location is becoming more important, and having value-based decision making has been critical.

Paul Barnett

Senior Program Manager, Transmission, TVA

Monitor & Evaluate

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, businesses need to continually reassess and adjust their plans accordingly. Using available data to drive decisions enables organizations to act instead of reacting, and course correct earlier when needed.


Utilities are proving to be some of the best prepared and most resilient organizations in these challenging times. We’re proud to help our clients enhance their AIPM capabilities and create effective investment plans for a post-pandemic world.

To learn more, please feel free to watch the webinar:

About the Author

Judi Hess

Judi has been the CEO of Copperleaf since 2009. She recently won the BC CEO Award, was named BC Tech Person of the Year, and was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Learn more about Judi here and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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