When I do any talks at different businesses, I talk a lot about crisis management. I have experienced many variations of crises in my career, of all shapes and sizes and have managed them in different ways. In the middle of our current common crisis - this global pandemic - they seem insignificant. But we do all still have our own responsibilities and challenges that we have to deal with now as we navigate through this tough time, no matter how big or small.
In my talks I often ask the question to the audience, ‘what could be an example of a crisis at your company?’. At one of my most recent sessions before the lockdown began, the company that I was speaking to had experienced a prolonged power cut that morning. This company was primarily a call centre, and heavily reliant on computers and telephones, so this was particularly problematic and the discussion was very apt. We almost had to cancel the session but luckily, they were able to recover very quickly and we were able to go ahead. It was clear that they had prepared for this to happen and it didn't affect them too much - a good example to prove my point that you have to prepare for the worst to be able to deal with problems when they happen.
For me, as a coach, one of the big crises we planned for is losing players. This is one of the biggest risks for us as a team sport and given the nature of Rugby League, one that can have a big impact through injury. Unfortunately, I have experienced crises like this throughout my career – one in particular was a loss of 70% of my top team players through injury, for the majority of the 2016 season.
We planned (as much as we could) for this. To help us prepare for losing players, we used to practice it in training. In the middle of a drill, I would remove players from the field one by one, without telling the team. This adds more and more pressure, forcing the team to adapt with less players. So that in a high-pressure game situation, it is not as much of a shock.
Because we had planned for this, it wasn’t as damaging as it could have been in that 2016 season (we finished the season as Grand Final winners).
There are problems that you can and can't plan for though, like the situation that we are in now. The chance of a global pandemic happening is very low so you wouldn't spend a lot of time planning for this. Ordinarily, it wouldn't be worthwhile spending the time to plan for something that is unlikely to happen.