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Cliff Trollope

Cliff Trollope

Business Resilience Practice Lead, MNP

When disaster strikes every part of an organization is impacted, and all groups have a role to play — including its board of directors.


Board members, like executives and managers, play an important role in helping an organization deal with a crisis, whether it’s allegations of sexual misconduct, a privacy breach, or a pandemic.

“Following a crisis, people will often ask, ‘Where was the board through all that?,’ so the board of an organization has to be as prepared for a crisis as its executives,” says Cliff Trollope, Business Resilience Practice Lead at MNP, a leading national accounting, tax, and business consulting firm in Canada.

Trollope says boards have to be prepared to play two different roles in a crisis. In the first, the organization’s management is leading the response and the board is supporting and providing advice and oversight. The other is when, for any number of reasons, management is precluded from leading. In these situations, the board must lead the crisis response and “drive the bus.”

Establish a crisis management plan early

To prepare, says Trollope, a board must start by ensuring the organization’s leaders have a comprehensive crisis management and business continuity program in place. The board must then develop its own plan, for which Trollope identifies three key stages:

Listicle 1

Create a framework.

With the help of an outside expert, board members should create a plan framework for crisis response. This requires focusing on governance, roles and responsibilities for the board, and integrating this with the organization’s overall crisis management and business continuity program.

Listicle 2

Create a board crisis management plan.

From there, board members should create a comprehensive crisis management plan that clearly defines each individual’s role and sound processes for communication and decision making. This must address questions such as, ‘Will there be a crisis management team within the board or will it be the full board?,’ ‘How will we communicate with management?,’ and ‘Do we have a crisis management expert on speed dial?’

“The board’s crisis management process has to be nailed down,” says Trollope. “Concepts aren’t enough when the pressure is on. You need a checklist of steps that must be taken.”

Listicle 3

Practise makes perfect.

Once this blueprint has been established, board members must practice executing it, either through tabletop exercises or simulations, and revise it when necessary. A consultant can help board members draft a plan and walk them through it.

Critical for every organization

Recent events reinforce Trollope’s belief that crisis preparation is critical for every organization. “What I’m seeing is that organizations that were prepared for a crisis have ensured business operations are running smoothly during this pandemic — and they’re poised to do so afterwards,” he says. “Organizations that didn’t prepare are now further behind on their road to recovery.”

Is your organization ready for a crisis?

MNP can help — simply provide your email below and an MNP consultant will get in touch.

MNP’s experienced professionals can help guide your business to develop appropriate plans to minimize business disruption during a crisis and to make the best possible decisions so you’re ready, resilient, and have all your bases covered.

Here’s the bottom line, says Trollope: “If you’ve prepared in advance, you’re responding to a crisis. Otherwise, you’re just reacting.” One is clearly better than the other.

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