Harvard Professor Provides Insight On How to Manage During a Pandemic

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James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published April 16, 2020

A noted Harvard Business School marketing professor has offered his insights on how to manage an organization during a health crisis, such as the current COVID-19 crisis the like of which the world hasn’t seen in a century.

John A. Quelch, emeritus Harvard Business School professor and dean of the University of Miami Business School, has developed the “7 Cs” system of managing during a crisis. These 7 Cs refer to seven distinctive capabilities necessary for crisis management.

The 7Cs refer to seven capabilities necessary for crisis management

The following description of these capabilities comes from “7 Leadership Principles for Managing in the Time of Coronavirus,” published in the March 26th edition of Working Knowledge from Harvard Business School.

The 7 Cs, according to Quelch, are:

  1. Calm – because stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders) are looking for leadership, the leader must display calm, rational thinking and action throughout the crisis.
  2. Confidence – because of the uncertainty and the unprecedented pressures on the organization, stakeholders may not expect answers. But, according to Quelch, “You have to project confidence that you’re going to be able to see this through successfully, with a minimum amount of hurt to the company…”
  3. Communication – stakeholders count on the leader to avoid the propagation of rumors and to create order on communicating decisions and priorities. Speed is crucial in getting information to the entire body of those affected. According to Quelch. “You have to relentlessly communicate, communicate, communicate…Silence is absolutely the worst possible thing that you can allow to happen, because that’s when the rumor mill develops.”
  4. Collaboration – refers to the marshaling of resources, especially the capabilities of employees and the development of task forces and sub-task forces. “Engaging employees in this way will also reduce the rumor mill and give confidence to them that they will then project in turn to the people who are relying on them as their managers for direction,” Quelch writes.
  5. Community – “It’s extremely important that we set an example that is community friendly and supportive.” By ‘community,’ Quelch refers to entities that extend beyond geographic communities such as colleges and universities, ethnic groups and governmental agencies.
  6. Compassion – The crisis leader, according to Quelch, must be mindful of the individual concerns of employees – such as elderly parents or children at home. “Compassion at a time of crisis is a very important manifestation of leadership,” writes Quelch.
  7. Cash – “Cash is king at a time of crisis, and everything needs to be done to look both short-term and long-term at the financial health of the organization,” writes Quelch. He urges leaders to be prudent with financial resources. “Whatever you can do to conserve cash is going to be critical, because that’s what’s going to determine whether your employees are going to be paid next week.”

About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.