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HOW TO ADAPT TO COVID-19 FOCUS: Insightful Practices for Company-Wide Implementation

Articles & Insights May 12 2020

In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, we invited CFA Institute’s Mandy Shuker, Senior Manager, Global Risk Management and Emergency Response to share insights and ideas on how her organization is continuing operations during this unprecedented time. This blog entry highlights the interview on a podcast series entitled PandemicBuzz launched by Witt O’Brien’s Devin Sirmenis, Managing Director Corporate Resilience. If you have not had a chance to listen, visit http://www.pandemicbuzz.com for the full library of podcasts.


People and Perspective

Working in the two worlds of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and Crisis Management (CM) provides a unique understanding of how the organization ‘identifies’ risk and how it ‘responds’ to risk. ERM and CM requires insights from across its business partners, including legal, human resources, IT and communications. Neither can effectively protect the organization if they operate alone in a vacuum; rather each are reliant upon on and other for their function’s input and networks. This is why you should surround yourself with the same people you do during non-pandemic times. These existing relationships will work more effectively, and possibly faster, to help you determine what’s next as you move into a proactive posture.

Mission-oriented Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic poses an interesting question – should we revisit and/or revise our mission statement? Caring for our customers and members must encompass caring for their needs both today and in the future. We must ask ourselves what the economic conditions will look like at the local and global levels. What are our stakeholders going to need and want to come out of this pandemic? Never pursue growth for growth’s sake, growth will come through the delivery of value to the constituency. Deliver more value virtually now. We revisited our mission statement and added the words, “…for the ultimate benefit of society.” Serve that, and growth will follow.

Values-driven Communication

Our company culture and values are focused on caring for people. They literally include the words ‘trust’ and ‘inclusion’. Our values speak to the mindset of viewing the whole person, the entirety of each individual member, staff and colleague. During this pandemic, our values should drive our communications, both internally and externally. Messaging must be factual and consistent while also expressing an awareness of what everyone might be balancing with their workload or learning journey (i.e., pursuit of the CFA designation). Be bold and aware of human factors as leadership. Speak to how the working and learning environment will have to adapt to accommodate child-care, remote learning/home schooling, family members becoming ill, essential service members and associated exposure concerns, even varying levels of comfortable home environments with spouses.

Shifting Capacity and Returning to Work

Being proactive is the only way to stay ahead of this pandemic. To address the current situation, companies should shift existing capacity within the organization to fulfill any unexpected increases of workload in certain areas of the business. For future planning, it is not too early to plan for reopening as some states are lifting the stay-at-home measures. There are many dependencies regarding bringing people back to the office, so companies must be cautious with their decision and always prioritize their employees’ safety and health.


Witt O’Brien’s looks forward to the opportunity to guide our clients. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your company’s approach to managing this crisis, need support to do so, or if you would like to brainstorm next steps.

Devin Sirmenis


Devin Sirmenis is a risk and crisis specialist focused on corporate resilience and has served clients for 20 years as a trusted advisor. Devin works with executive leadership at Fortune 500 firms to assess and develop their crisis management programs, train crisis leaders, and stress test the ability to manage an enterprise threatening crisis through simulations.

Prior to joining Witt O'Brien's he led consultant programs at Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton and Perot Systems Government Services. Devin pairs his years of client experience with continuing education and has completed Harvard Kennedy School's Crisis Leadership Program, and holds a Change Management Advanced Practitioner certification from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.


Please listen to all of our PandemicBuzz episodes on one of your favorite platforms:

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