Alexander's Advantage Point
There is an essential word in the field of emergency medicine. The word is triage. “Triage (verb)—the process of determining urgency and priority of treatment based upon the severity of condition and the likelihood of recovery with and without treatment.”
ER doctors and nurses have certain steps they follow as they practice the art and science of medical triage—vital signs, responsiveness, severity of injury in one patient when compared to another—hard, quick decisions are made that promise quick treatment to one and the delay of treatment to another.
Triage first. Treat second.
That’s where we all are right now, isn’t it? Each organization is trying to determine how bad it is, how soon they
might recover, and what to do to aid their recovery.
I’m sure you’ve already attended your fair share of webinars and Zoom calls to gather as much advice and
information as possible in order to conduct your own organizational triage. Me too.
Here’s what I’ve heard and sorted through that seems essential for leaders in a time of crisis. Each of these
seven areas represents a central need, a mandate, leaders must attend to, both now and for the foreseeable
1. The Need to Lead in Time of Crisis
First and foremost, leaders must lead. Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced a bit of shock and denial over the
last few weeks. The virus was distant, someone else’s problem. We considered ourselves strong, vibrant, maybe
But that’s not the case now, is it? Coronavirus is a biological natural disaster of yet unknown proportion and
impact that demands our global attention. This external disaster has invaded our organizational reality. Take
heed, within a state of shock, or denial, we are prone to stop and stare at the things happening around us and to
Leaders must step forward, break the spell and define their organization’s reality. Will the pandemic continue to
define reality? In the short term, yes. But now is the time for leaders to gather their people and lead their
organization. Lead into the unknown with a posture of candor, courage and commitment to stay the course
whether the road to recovery is short or long,
2. The Need to Care for One Another
The first message leaders must send, is a call to care. I’ve already seen leaders so consumed with what to do,
they have neglected their own self-care. Stop. Take care. Rest. Adopt the rhythms and habits of self-care
(physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) and then transfer those practices to colleague care. Are you taking
care of your people, and are they taking care of themselves? Preach that message. A healthy, whole organization
supporting one another on-line and on site is the standard.
From there, that same spirit of care and connection should be applied to your clients. They aren’t just
customers, they are the people with whom you’ve entered into a mutually beneficial relationship, now is the
time to focus on the relationship; express your hope for their well-being.
Let’s start and act here. Convey a spirit of care for one another—within and without!
3. The Need to Focus & Assess
Despite the natural tendency to shift into emergency mode, seeking quick answers and taking action to “fix
things”, we need to take time to focus:
• Focused Assessment
• Focused Message
• Focused Action
Leaders and leadership teams much conduct concentrated assessment exercises to ascertain where the
organization, its resources, its finances, its services and products and its clients are. Then, construct and convey
a focused message—both internally and externally—about what the organization will do and be in the weeks
Then, only after this time of focused organizational triage, will it be appropriate to take definitive, rather than
knee-jerk, organizational action.
4. The Need to Face Financial Challenge
Linked directly to the need to assess is the need to face your financial challenges. Don’t ignore the hard
questions. Had you created a cash reserve that now serves you well? What financial runway does it provide for
Chart your revenue projections against anticipated revenue realities. Do the same with expenses. What is the
delta? Develop a tiered approach to dealing with financial challenges. What for-profit programs and products
will generate the most revenue during the pandemic? Are there pandemic-related services you can provide, at
what cost/benefit? What nonprofit appeals will yield the most impact and support? What preemptive expense
actions can you take? What services might be paused? What is the potential impact of the CARES Act to your
bottom line? What about your largest expense, personnel? Put it all on the table.
Create financial contingencies based upon both revenue realities and potential expense constrictions. What are
your versions of mild, modest and severe cuts? Based upon reserves, anticipated revenue and realistic expense,
what are the triggers that will move you from Tier One—a 10% reduction, to Tier Two—a 20% reduction, to
Tier Three—a 30% or more reduction?
5. The Need to Identify Essential Services
For the season of pandemic, there is no such thing as business as usual. As you continue to assess, determine,
what are the primary products and services we will continue to offer? Can we change our delivery modalities in
cost effective, pro-active ways?
Approach all these decisions as a leadership team. Make these decisions together, for the good of the
organization as a whole. Check your silo at the door. Just like in the area of resources, create tiered delivery
priorities for your services, products and programs. Identify:
• Primary Services
• Limited Services
• Suspended Services
Within the organization, communicate early and often the nature of these conversations. Be vulnerable and
candid. Ask for ideas. Don’t announce, engage. Then, when you do announce, people will understand. It will
still be hard, but inclusion fosters belonging, and we want our people to belong long after the virus has
6. The Need for Contingency Thinking & Planning
All of the assessment and prioritization and decision making needs a framework—a plan. Transfer the energy
normally focused on long-range strategic planning and focus it on contingency planning.
Take all these matters and collect, collate and develop a “Survive & Recover Contingency Plan with Three
Scenarios”. Create an operational framework for this season that addresses:
• Your Commitment to Our People and Our Clients
• Your Financial Realities
• Your Essential Services
• Your Recovery Scenarios
o Quick Rebound 3-5 months
o Gradual Restoration 6-11 months
o Slow Renewal 12-18 months
Then, develop a “war room” posture and protocol to monitor and manage the administration of your
contingency plan. Stay focused. Keep to the essentials. Hold one another accountable. Be nimble. Make hard
decisions when necessary. Celebrate small victories. And by all means, care for one another.
7. The Need to Raise Your Rallying Cry
Lastly, create a “rallying cry”! Declare to those within and without, who and what you’re going to do and be in
the season of pandemic and beyond. (Thanks to Patrick Lencioni for this encouragement.)
Make it short! Two words, five if you must. Be positive, mission focused and pro-active. Use your rallying cry to
marshal the forces to survive and eventually thrive.
Now, go out there and lead! They need you! We need you! Help all you serve as we walk through this season of
survival, into the season of recovery, until we finally arrive at a season of renewal and revisioning. May God
bless you all in this important endeavor!
By David Alexander, President
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