• Peter Sondergaard

Recovery Execution – The next phase of Crisis Planning

Updated: Apr 9


We need to move to the next phase, Recovery Planning & Execution (RPE). That does not negate the enormous humanitarian and economic effort still required to deal with the current stage of the crisis. However, previous crises have factually shown that organizations that plan during a crisis, accelerate following the establishment of a new normal. It’s hard to predict how this crisis will evolve, but it is clear that organizations, private and public, need to establish a Recovery Program office. The program office must be the extension or an integrated part of the crisis management office. The recovery program office needs to be responsible for the coordination of recovery planning and execution.

Far too many organizations fall into a state of paralysis or find themselves executing a set of uncoordinated activities by business function (i.e., HR, Sales, or Supply Chain), following a crisis. This is irrespective of whether the crisis is an economic downturn, M&A situation, or merely a turn-around attempt. The current coverage of the crisis in the business press shows emerging examples of these situations. Such as supply chain organizations talking about planning for the new normal but without coordination with other parts of the organization or HR organizations preparing for the world, we are entering into without planning input from the other business functions. Successful Recovery Planning is a corporate exercise with cross-functional participation driven by the CEO. Furthermore, most of the current case studies and articles talk about the planning part of the recovery but fail to outline the complex execution component of recovery planning. Many organizations are good at planning. Most fail at execution. Successful recovery will depend on how your organization executes the recovery.

Recovery planning is like strategic planning. Every well-run organization knows how to do strategy planning, often through a strategic planning office, and most often done around the same time every year. However, many organizations fail in the implementation of their strategy. Companies fail in strategy execution. Three out of four strategies fail because the deployment fails. Recovery planning will be no different, but failing the recovery from the current crisis, carry a higher cost for most businesses. It is, therefore, important now to consider several critical items around Recovery Planning and, in particular, the execution of the recovery. Seven aspects you should consider in your organization:

  • Approach Recovery Planning & Execution like Strategy Planning except with a higher degree of speed and agility. By leveraging the current crisis management work as well as the known practices of strategy planning, organizations can rapidly ramp up the next phase, the Recovery Planning & Execution phase.

  • The data, information collection, and analysis phase must be short, iterative, and likely executed in parallel to the evolving Plan and Execution. Compared to traditional strategy planning, recovery planning needs to be more agile, borrowing from the principles of an agile business. The next 3-6 will define how an organization will evolve and prosper in the following new normal.

  • Build a cross-functional executive team supported by a Recovery Program Office. The team members must represent the functional and business expertise of the organization. Furthermore, the team must have deep data science and data visualization expertise. This could be the same team and program office responsible for the annual strategy planning. Equally, this team needs to leverage or be integrated with the crisis management team to ensure proper hand-off. Lastly, ensure that additional cross-functional sub-teams exist to execute elements of the implementation within each function in the organization. These are critical when it comes to the rapid execution of the recovery plan. These distributed multifunctional teams or pods are equally accountable for achieving metrics or KPIs associated with the recovery plan.

  • Build a Recovery Plan and Execution framework, but ensure it is iterative, agile, and able to leverage input from all internal and external sources continuously. Implement a Recovery Planning Framework that captures the objectives, activities, and projects within and across each business function. Ensure an informative but straightforward depiction of the framework, and the projects exist. This framework should be used as part of the communication plan. Lastly, a recovery plan will likely involve you reconsidering the four elements of your business model, which are your value proposition, customers, financial model, and your capabilities. See the possible framework below.


  • Foster and develop the right leadership skills for the crisis and recovery situation. Leadership matters and previous crises have shown that the right combination of leadership skills possessed by all managers across the organization has been the differentiating factor. There are ten critical leadership skills necessary for all managers and leaders to display as part of the recovery phase. For more details, please read my article about Leadership Skills in a Time of Crisis, and the chart below.


  • Implement a framework for tracking projects, feedback, and progress against KPIs and metrics for the recovery plan. The execution of the recovery phase is critical. Without tracking your progress and ensuring organization-wide empowerment and accountability, you will not succeed. For the current crisis, no dedicated software products or tools exist that may fully satisfy your organization’s needs. However, you should consider deploying the tools your organization may already be using for the annual strategy planning process, even if they are simple spreadsheets. Several software tools do exist in the newly emerging field of strategy execution.

  • Build a recovery communication plan to ensure consistent, clear, and factual communication at all levels in the organization. The success of your recovery execution will depend on your communication. You must ensure frequent communication, use multiple channels, and communicate to all levels in the organization. Understand the details of change management communication and lastly, be honest, and show empathy in how in you communicate. The audience will be mostly concerned with the current crisis, validly so, and therefore not overly open to change.

The time is now to start your efforts around Recovery Planning & Execution. You should be familiar with the activity since it mirrors your strategy planning. But focus on the execution part of your recovery plan, revisit the elements of your business model, and appreciate that leadership, and therefore leadership skills, matter.

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