Crisis Management

When it Comes to COVID-19, How Much Briefing is Too Much Briefing?

Companies need to keep the board informed, without over-burdening management with one-on-one director briefings.

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Companies are racing to update their communication policies in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). A recent survey of corporate risk professionals focused on crisis management governance, employee travel and post-travel restrictions and communications in response to the virus. Respondents were asked how often they were provided management and board-level briefings. Fifty percent of respondents are communicating with management daily and 35% are briefing management weekly. Alternatively, the majority of respondents (67%) are briefing their boards “as needed only,” while 25% have not made a decision yet or do not currently have executive-level briefings. Only 8% are updating their boards weekly.

According to Dennis T. Whalen, Leader of the KPMG Board Leadership Center, the frequency of briefings is something of a balancing act.

“First and foremost, the board should be engaged with management and ensure the focus is on the employees,” Whalen says. “Communication between boards and management is important. Companies need to establish a process to keep the board informed, without over-burdening management with one-on-one director briefings.”

Whalen suggests that independent chairs and lead directors interface with management and then brief directors.

A recent ISM study revealed that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused supply chain disruptions for nearly three-quarters of U.S. companies. Of these companies, most expect the severity of the disruptions will increase after the first quarter of this year. “Boards need to understand supply chain risks and engage in scenario planning to maintain operations,” says Whalen. “Also, while most companies already filed their annual reports, the first quarter reporting deadline is fast approaching and companies should consider whether they may need enhanced disclosures.”