These are challenging times, and one major concern for many companies is how to manage their supply in response to the Covid-19-induced crisis.

A stable and strong supply chain is not accomplished overnight, but there are some immediate actions you should take to prepare your supply chain for the challenges ahead.

Many companies have already set up a ‘war room’ and a cross-functional Crisis Management Response (CMR) team, but others may still be struggling to get started. This is why we want to offer this text as an inspiration or checklist for setting up an effective war room.

How to set up your war room and CMR team: First steps

Overall, your war room and CMR team should be anchored in and led by the Supply Chain function. The team should meet frequently to coordinate and follow up on actions. The good news is that both the ‘war room’ and CMR team meetings can be either physical or virtual.

  1. Define and mobilise a cross-functional Crisis Management Response Team anchored in and led by the Supply Chain function. The team should – as a minimum – include key people from Sales, Operations and Finance in order to be able to identify and assess supply issues and decide actions based on a holistic perspective considering both customer, supplier, operational and financial perspectives.
  2. Set up a ‘war room’ that should include a visual management board to ensure structure and transparency in terms of issues, actions, deadlines and roles and responsibilities. All relevant data and information related to the identified issues and agreed actions should be available and transparent in the war room to ensure a data-driven approach to issue identification, action planning and follow-up. The war room, including the visual management board, can be set up physically or virtually leveraging digital collaboration tools such as Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft SharePoint to name some of the commonly used options.
  3. Define a crisis management meeting rhythm and roles and responsibilities in relation to this. This means that you also need to define who is responsible for updating what on the visual management board prior to each meeting. The meeting frequency should reflect the urgency and criticality of the situation. We therefore recommend a daily meeting. Meeting duration should be kept to a minimum, typically around 15-30 min although the first few meetings may take a bit longer until everyone participating in the meetings have become familiar with the ‘modus operandi’ of the meetings.
  4. Define a standard and action-oriented agenda for the daily crisis management meetings. A standard agenda could be structured as follows: 1) Status on open actions; 2) identification, assessment and prioritisation of new supply-related issues and risks; 3) Definition of new/additional actions to be taken and deadlines, roles and responsibilities in relation to these.
  5. Define a clear decision escalation process to enable fast and efficient decision-making as and when required. Ideally, the supply-focused CMR team and process should preferably be anchored in a general Crisis Management Response team at corporate level if such a team has been established.
  6. Identify and prioritise key supply issues and define immediate actions required to contain, mitigate and/or resolve these. Be sure to clearly define and agree on criteria and weighting for assessment and prioritisation of the supply issues and the actions to be taken. As a minimum, high-level assessment of impact versus effort should be considered using a structured and data-driven approach to this.
  7. Kick off and conduct the crisis management meetings. Be sure to continuously refine the approach, content and participants in the meetings based on the practical learnings gained along the way to ensure the meetings are as efficient and effective as possible. Needless to say, presence and engagement from all relevant participants in all meetings are critical to ensure meeting efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, the meetings should solely focus on issues and actions, i.e. ensure identification, follow-up and follow-through on these. In other words, the meetings should not be spent on issue resolution – these are to be addressed between the meetings.

We are bound to encounter numerous expected and unexpected challenges in our businesses in the times ahead, and there are no guarantees. However, one thing is a given: we must do all we can to protect our ability to deliver on time in full to customers and thus to be ready for whatever challenges are facing us.