The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken organisations to their core, and our branch was no exception. To identify different threats that our organisation faces as a result of the pandemic, we created a risk heat map that allowed us to mitigate our risks. This article will walk you through our process to give you an idea of how to use a risk heat map to drive strategic decisions.
Our heat map
We built our heat map in five simple steps:
- We defined risks and categorised them according to their impact. We labelled those risks that would have a larger impact on our three loci of value building – clients, consultants and community – as ‘high impact’.
- This allowed us to rank the risks and assign them numerical values based on our mission and goals.
- Then, we measured our second variable, ‘likelihood’. We analysed the trend of coronavirus regulations in Catalunya and weighed them against the strengths and weaknesses of the association, giving numerical values once again.
- Afterwards, we observed the speed of onset. We considered a risk that was expected to manifest in the short term to have a high speed of onset.
- Finally, we assigned each risk a score from one to five for its ‘speed of onset’.
We plotted our findings on a 5x5 grid, colour coded from green to red to indicate the level of risk. ‘Likelihood’ and ‘Impact’ were on the main axes, while we increased the depth of our analysis by using the size of the dots to show the speed of onset. The resulting heat map looked like this:
After we completed the map, we developed specific recommendations to control each risk. Our board then reviewed our proposals and transformed them into response-action goals. Each response-action was assigned to a team with a corresponding KPI and due date, which allowed us to keep track of progress and our risk level.
Our risks in detail
But, what about our risks? We will now explore the heat map, with the respective goals set for each risk, and the current state of the corona risk strategy.
Lower opportunity for sponsorship
Likelihood: 5 | Impact: 5 | Speed of onset: 5
As companies deal with financial distress caused by the pandemic, the opportunity for sponsorship diminishes. To counter this risk, our strategy team has developed a methodology to improve the opportunity of sponsorship and partnership. The model includes guidelines to evaluate companies, a list of potential sponsors and partners that fit with our organisation’s culture and goals, and a framework for acquiring sponsors/partners.
Likelihood: 5 | Impact: 4 | Speed of onset: 3
The rise in cases will likely force us to move fully online, leading to communication issues. This issue may be exacerbated in case members are living in countries with different time zones.
To help our consultants in dealing with Zoom fatigue and the communication barriers posed by the distance, we have developed a manual of best practices for virtual teams. This digital guide will be shared with the consultants in the form of a social media campaign, as this will ensure a wide reach.
Likelihood: 4 | Impact: 4 | Speed of onset: 5
Technical issues may slow down processes or hinder the work of some members. This is considered a high risk because of the high reliance on technology caused by social distancing. Moreover, our teams are currently working on an open-source data-sharing platform, which is more likely to suffer from server downtime than a subscription-based platform.
To counter the risks of technology, we are currently developing a digitalisation plan, which is aimed at creating more efficient processes and reduce the risk of technological failures.
Slower internal processes
Likelihood: 4 | Impact: 4 | Speed of onset: 4
Communication and technological issues can lead to a slowdown of internal processes. Backoffice cross-team collaboration might deteriorate in case the association goes fully online. The speed of onset is very high for this risk, as the slowdown of processes is expected to appear in the short-term in case a lockdown is announced, as the board adapts to the new restrictions.
Nonetheless, the board has created an effective communication system to allow processes to run smoothly after a short period of adaptation. The board meets once a week to discuss progress and to take decisions together, and outside of the meetings, the members keep track of their progress using a task board.
Likelihood: 3 | Impact: 5 | Speed of onset: 4
Project cancellation will be reviewed by the Consulting Directors. If possible, the team will be quickly re-assigned to a new project. Otherwise, the team will be assigned to an internal project such as creating a digital guide for NGOs on how to deal with the financial distress of COVID-19.
Likelihood: 3 | Impact: 5 | Speed of onset: 3
Certain risks like the potential loss in sense of community or COVID-19 regulation compliance might damage our reputation if not managed correctly. As of now, we are giving a special emphasis on creating a community within the organisation, facilitating networking among each other, even if virtually.
Likelihood: 5 | Impact: 3 | Speed of onset: 5
In case of a total lock-down, our operations will be negatively affected, as impactful, sudden changes can raise stress levels, consequently affecting motivation and productivity. However, studies on the effects of the lockdown in March 2020 show that these effects are usually temporary and followed by a surge in productivity as members face fewer distractions and more free time.
We have an ‘emergency plan’ ready in case a full lock-down is announced. The plan includes reminding all consultants to focus on their mental health and take a moment to adapt to the changes. This will allow to manage the stress levels and decrease their impact on productivity.
Team members falling ill
Likelihood: 5 | Impact: 3 | Speed of onset: 5
As the pandemic has decreased business activity, we may have fewer projects. However, this risk is considered to have a low likelihood, because our Client Relations team has worked to expand our network since the beginning of the crisis.
Loss of sense of community
Likelihood: 3 | Impact: 3 | Speed of onset: 1
The physical distance and low interaction among teams make it easy to forget that we are all one team who share the same goal and same values. To control this risk, our Marketing team has established an internal communications channel on social media to keep every member updated. Moreover, our Community team organises periodic virtual team-building activities and meet-ups with members of other branches.
Data privacy issues
Likelihood: 2 | Impact: 4 | Speed of onset: 2
When storing data on clients and members, it is important to make sure that we adhere to data protection regulations, and that past data is updated in case these regulations change. Currently, the President and Vice President are developing a data privacy and protection statement, so that clients and members are aware of how their data is used.
Covid-19 law compliance
Likelihood: 2 | Impact: 4 | Speed of onset: 5
Regulations are updated often, so it is important that we are constantly updated on the newest measures. The “emergency plan” includes sending informative communication to all members if new restrictions affect our operations in any way.
Likelihood: 1 | Impact: 5 | Speed of onset: 2
Social distancing and the consequent increase in digitalisation has raised opportunities for cyber-attacks. Hackers usually target companies with the intent of stealing money or steal data to demand a ransom. Being a non-profit organisation, we are at a lower risk than a for-profit organisation for cyber-attacks. Nonetheless, it is still important that everyone in our team is aware of how to protect themselves from attacks. To increase awareness, our new digital guide specifically addresses cybersecurity.
Shift of project focus
Likelihood: 4 | Impact: 1 | Speed of onset: 3
COVID-19 may create new threats to companies and thus cause project focus to shift to deal with more pressing issues. This risk is considered to have a very low impact because changes in projects are very common in consulting, and our consultants have received training that will help them to adapt easily to new scenarios. Moreover, we have launched a mentorship program where each consulting team is assigned to a mentor to guide them and overcome any obstacles they might encounter along the way.
These risk response-actions have helped our organisation mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19. In the event of a change of trend of the virus, or new regulations from the Catalan government, the risk heat map and its related response strategy will be reviewed and updated.
We hope you enjoyed our article. Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more about our organisation and how we operate, or if you have any questions regarding strategic planning in these trying times.