The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a tectonic disturbance that has immediate consequences for people in the region and throughout the world. Most important, this war affects people’s lives, and there will be pain and loss in the weeks to come. Our responsibility as leaders is, first and foremost, to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees and their families. Only then can we address the range of business issues that we also face.
The invasion comes at an ebb in the pandemic when people are exhausted and seeking normalcy. Much work has moved online, so any disruption in communications networks threatens employee productivity. Supply chains are struggling to recover and will struggle more in the face of geographic hindrances and sanctions. Microchip manufacturing, which has faced challenges of meeting demand, will suffer from a decrease in the availability of raw materials such as palladium and neon gas, much of which is sourced from Russia. Gas prices will rise amid a growing risk of stagflation, adding to inflationary pressures felt from grocery stores to server rooms. And of course, the threat of cyberattacks remains high worldwide.
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Here are some of the most pressing questions we’re hearing from business leaders across the world — and that you may just be asking yourself.
What are the first things I should do in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Organizations should immediately rally subject matter experts from operations, finance, IT, supply chain, human resources, legal and marketing to identify threats and impacts. Develop a list of proposed changes, investments and controls to manage both threats and impacts. Then, prioritize and create action plans to implement changes and address contingencies for a very fluid situation.
Just as important, the Russian invasion of Ukraine will have a life-changing impact on many people in that region. Failure to act with a human-centric approach would risk people’s lives and could exacerbate potential mental health issues for you and your team, and affect your organization’s brand. At all stages, seek to promote and prioritize actions that can support impacted staff within your organization, as well as your service providers.
How can my organization promote psychological safety during this time of war?
All levels of leadership have a role in this. Building and maintaining trust requires a concerted and consistent effort. The C-suite sets the tone with policy and procedures that address how the organization takes action in response to disruptions. Leaders cultivate psychological safety by inviting input on what is inhibiting open communication and by creating consistent messaging on culture and expectations.
Risk management seems paramount right now. How can we make better informed decisions during this crisis?
Executive leaders who make defensible, risk-informed choices are more likely to navigate their organizations with resilience, from response through recovery. The impulse to make hasty decisions in the face of crisis must be tempered with thoughtful considerations of reprioritization, divestment and strategic investment. Even when decisions must be made quickly, a pragmatic assessment of organizational dependencies (risks), such as technology, business continuity, workforce and third parties can create valuable insight to support success in all phases of a crisis. Risk management is about a combination of minimizing the impact now, recovering as the crisis event resolves, and restoring and rebuilding when the crisis is over.
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Cybersecurity is top of mind. What can we do to mitigate expected consequences in this area?
Rely on threat intelligence tailored for your organization, and watch for guidance from your government contacts. Expect attackers to leverage the situation as context for already-known attack techniques such as targeted phishing. Focus on what you can control. Increase awareness and vigilance to detect and prevent potential threats, but be mindful of the heightened stress and pressure your organization is feeling. A human error due to these forces may have a greater impact on your organization than an actual cyberattack.
What about supply chain? How should we triage ours continually?
Immediately start creating first-tier visibility into your existing supply networks to evaluate potential risk exposure and determine vulnerabilities. Follow through with n-tier visibility, although results will likely establish over several months only. This is key to enable effective response strategies. The event implication can span much further than direct supply chain ties into the conflict region. It is critical to find the best options to get around potential obstacles and to make timely and tough decisions that will keep your organization moving forward.
Chris Howard is Gartner's Chief of Research. Clients can access Gartner's full suite of resources for navigating the Russian invasion of Ukraine here.
This article has been updated from the March 1st, 2022 original to reflect new events, conditions and research.