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With the 31st October approaching, Charlie explores the idea of a Brexit Operating Regime and some preparations that your organisation can put into place.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been doing a number of Brexit workshops and exercises. As the 31st October is rapidly approaching, I thought I would share some of my ideas on how your organisation can prepare for Brexit.

The idea of a Brexit Operating Regime (BOR) involves considering Brexit as a possible incident; you should prepare for it and run your organisation in a different way. A BOR will also allow you to identify incidents which your organisation will have to react to, as well as giving you a framework for managing events as they occur. Having a BOR is not instead of preparing for the particular issues Brexit will bring for your industry or organisation, but sits above the preparation and allows you to quickly react to any event or incident that affects your company, staff and operations.

I suggest you should consider putting the following into place:

1. Form a Brexit team or committee, which will review changing events and then make decisions. This committee could be based on the organisation’s senior management team or the strategic or crisis management team. This team should have a set time to meet or check in every morning. This could be face-to-face or carried out on a conference call. The team would review the news and if there was nothing new or no major change, they would agree to continue with their normal work regime, but if there was a significant event, then they already have time marked in their diary to meet and discuss how the organisation should react. Having a scheduled daily meeting allows for quick decision making, rather than having to rearrange diaries to be able to get the team together.

2. When a significant event occurs, the impact on your organisation may not be obvious. One of the tools you could use to assess its possible impact is to carry out a simple risk assessment. You could look at:

  • a. Most likely case
  • b. Reasonable worst case
  • c. Best case

Once you have looked at the different cases, you can then start looking at the events leading up to each case, so that you can monitor these events and see which direction the risk is heading, if it is going to mature. Other tools such as PESTLE or perhaps an in-house developed framework of questions can help your organisation understand the significance and impact of events as they occur.

3. Communications, internally and externally, are critically important to the success or failure of your incident management and so, as part of your BOR you should review your list of stakeholders. Who might you have to communicate with over the Brexit period, how will you communicate with them, do you have the relevant contact details and what their communication requirements likely to be? Developing a communications plan and deciding how communications will be signed off are a key part of Brexit preparation.

4. The Operation Yellowhammer document produced by the government gives an idea of what could possibly happen post-Brexit. It is an important document, as it gives us something to plan for, because if you got 20 business continuity people in a room they would never agree on the possible impacts and scenarios surrounding Brexit. As part of your preparations, you should read the Yellowhammer and have a look at how it would affect your organisation if things turn out as suggested within this document. There is the opportunity to then do some contingency planning and think through for example, if there were shortages of food or fuel, or there was rioting in the streets, then how would this affect your organisation, staff and operations, and how would you deal with it? You can’t contingency plan for every eventuality, but it may be worth planning for a number of the events laid out in Yellowhammer.

5. If you are a large organisation and some of the Yellowhammer predictions come true, such as rioting or food shortages, then you may need a tactical team which can deal with the day-to-day issues associated with Brexit. This leaves the strategic and crisis team to deal with some of the policy issues and strategic decision, instead of getting bogged down in the day-by-day, hour-by-hour details. The tactical team could sit permanently during this period and they could be the focal point for any action or questions associated with Brexit. Depending on the organisation and the magnitude of the events the team could be formed only during work hours, work ‘long days’ or may need to be on standby 24/7. If a tactical team is formed, then there needs to be communications to all stakeholders of their role, how to contact them, what type of incidents they are there to deal with and how their role works with the ‘normal’ day-to-day line management.

6. I did a Brexit workshop earlier in the week and during the last part we looked at medium to long-term issues. A number of groups taking part in the exercise first thought about the possible opportunities in Brexit. If you are well-prepared and Brexit has a major impact on your competitors, this is a potential opportunity to increase your market share and take business away from them, as you are less affected by the incident. At the minimum, Brexit can be an opportunity to connect with your customers, demonstrate your planning and the benefits of continuing to do business with your organisation.

We live in historic times and we are witnessing history in the making. In years to come, when our grandchildren or great grandchildren are studying modern British history, they will come to you and say ‘Grandad/Grandma you were alive during Brexit, what was it all about? It seems very complicated to me’. You will then have the opportunity to explain! I have written a number of bulletins on Brexit and with the day we are meant to leave approaching, possibly with a ‘no-deal’, there is still the opportunity to prepare if you have not done so already.

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