9 steps to lead your business through change [2024] (2024)


A business contingency plan is a backup strategy for your team or organization. It lays out how you’ll respond if unforeseen events knock your plans off track—like how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client, or what you’ll do if your software service goes down for more than three hours. Get step-by-step instructions to create an effective contingency plan, so if the unexpected happens, your team can spring into action and get things back on track.

No one wants Plan A to fail—but having a strong plan B in place is the best way to be prepared for any situation. With a solid backup plan, you can effectively respond to unforeseen events effectively and get back on track as quickly as possible.

A contingency plan is a proactive strategy to help you address negative developments and ensure business continuity. In this article, learn how to create a contingency plan for unexpected events and build recovery strategies to ensure your business remains healthy.

What is contingency planning?

How can teams tackle challenges like power outages, natural disasters, and market fluctuations that disrupt operations and cause productivity losses? The key lies in effective contingency planning. This strategic approach is designed to identify potential risks and develop actionable response plans to mitigate disruptions caused by unforeseen disasters and escalating problems.

Create a contingency plan template

What is a contingency plan?

A contingency plan is a strategy for how your organization will respond to important or business-critical events that knock your original plans off track. Executed correctly, a business contingency plan can mitigate risk and help you get back to business as usual—as quickly as possible.

You might be familiar with contingency plans to respond to natural disasters—businesses and governments typically create contingency plans for disaster recovery after floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes.

But contingency plans are just as important for business risks. For example, you might create a contingency plan outlining what you will do if your primary competitors merge or how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client. You could even create a contingency plan for smaller occurrences that would have a big impact—like your software service going down for more than three hours.

Contingency planning vs risk management

Project risk management is the process of identifying, monitoring, and addressing project-level risks. Apply project risk management at the beginning of the project planning process to prepare for any risks that might come up. To do so, create a risk register to identify and monitor potential project risks. If a risk does happen, you can use your risk register to proactively target that risk and resolve it as quickly as possible.

A contingency plan is similar to a project risk management plan or a crisis management plan because it also helps you identify and resolve risks. However, a business contingency plan should cover risks that span multiple projects or even risks that could affect multiple departments. To create a contingency plan, identify and prepare for large, business-level risks.

Contingency planning vs crisis management

Contingency planning is a proactive approach that prepares organizations for potential emergencies by implementing pre-planned risk mitigation strategies. It involves identifying threats and crafting strategies in advance.

Crisis management, on the other hand, is reactive, focusing on immediate response and damage control when a crisis occurs. While contingency planning sets the stage for effective handling of emergencies, crisis management involves real-time decision-making and project management during an actual crisis. Both are important for organizations and businesses to maintain their stability and resilience.

Free crisis management template

Contingency plan examples

There are a variety of reasons you’d want to set up a contingency plan. Rather than building one contingency plan, you should build one plan for each type of large-scale risk or disaster that might strike.

Read: Business impact analysis: 4 steps to prepare for anything

Business contingency plan

A business contingency plan is a specialized strategy that organizations develop to respond to particular, unforeseen events that threaten to disrupt regular operations. It's kind of like a business continuity plan, but there's one key difference.

While business continuity plans aim to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the entire business during a crisis, a business contingency plan zeroes in on procedures and solutions for specific critical incidents, such as data breaches, supply chain interruptions, or key staff unavailability.

A business contingency plan could include:

Environmental contingency plan

While severe earthquakes aren’t particularly common, being unprepared when “the big one” strikes could prove to be catastrophic. This is why governments and businesses in regions prone to earthquakes create preparedness initiatives and contingency plans.

A government contingency plan for an earthquake could include things like:

  • The names and information of the people designated to handle certain tasks in advance to ensure the emergency response is quick and concise

  • Ways to educate the public on how to respond when an earthquake hits

  • A timeline for emergency responders.

Technology contingency plan

If your business is particularly data-heavy, for example, ensuring the safety and cybersecurity of your information systems is critical. Whether a power surge damages your servers or a hacker attempts to infiltrate your network, you’ll want to have an emergency response in place.

A business’s contingency plan for a data breach could involve:

  • Steps to take and key team members to notify in order to get data adequately secured once more

  • The names and information of stakeholders to contact to discuss the impact of the data breach and the plan to protect their investment

  • A timeline to document what is being done to address the breach and what will need to be done to prevent data breaches in the future

Read: Problem management: 8 steps to incident resolution

Supply chain contingency plan

Businesses that are integral parts of the supply chain, such as manufacturing entities, retail companies, and logistics providers, need an effective supply chain contingency plan to continue functioning smoothly under unforeseen circ*mstances.

These plans hedge against supply chain disruptions caused by events like natural disasters or technological outages and help organizations reduce downtime and ensure real-time operational capabilities.

A supply chain contingency plan could include:

  • Secure critical data and systems while promptly notifying key team members, such as IT staff and management, for immediate action.

  • A predetermined list of essential stakeholders, including suppliers, customers, investors, and authorities, should be contacted to inform them about the disruption and steps being taken.

  • A detailed timeline is essential for documenting the immediate response and outlining long-term strategies to prevent future disruptions in the supply chain.

Pandemic contingency plan

In the face of a global health crisis, a pandemic contingency plan is vital for organizations in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing. This plan focuses on mitigation strategies to minimize operational disruptions and ensure the safety of employees while maintaining business continuity.

A pandemic response plan could include:

  • A comprehensive health and safety protocol for employees, which integrates regular health screenings, detailed risk analysis, and emergency medical support as key components.

  • Flexible work arrangements and protocols for remote operations and digital communication.

  • A list of key personnel and communication channels for immediate response and coordination.

  • Regularly reviewing and adapting the pandemic contingency plan as part of an ongoing disaster recovery plan to address evolving challenges and lessons learned.

Read: How to manage remote teams [Free eBook]

How to create a contingency plan

You can create a contingency plan at various levels of your organization. For example, if you're a team lead, you could create a contingency plan for your team or department. Alternatively, company executives should create business contingency plans for situations that could impact the entire organization.

As you create your contingency plan, make sure you evaluate the likelihood and severity of each risk. Then, once you’ve created your plan—or plans—get it approved by your manager or department head. That way, if a negative event does occur, your team can leap to action and quickly resolve the risk without having to wait for approvals.

Create a contingency plan template

1. Make a list of risks

Before you can resolve risks, you first need to identify them. Start by making a list of any and all risks that might impact your company. Remember: there are different levels of contingency planning—you could be planning at the business, department, or program level. Make sure your contingency plans are aligned with the scope and magnitude of the risks you’re responsible for addressing.

A contingency plan is a large-scale effort, so hold a brainstorming session with relevant stakeholders to identify and discuss potential risks. If you aren’t sure who should be included in your brainstorming session, create a stakeholder analysis map to identify who should be involved.

2. Weigh risks based on severity and likelihood

You don’t need to create a contingency plan for every risk you lay out. Once you outline risks and potential threats, work with your stakeholders to identify the potential impact of each risk.

Evaluate each risk based on two metrics: the severity of the impact if the risk were to happen and the likelihood of the risk occurring. During the risk assessment phase, assign each risk a severity and likelihood—we recommend using high, medium, and low.

3. Identify important risks

Once you’ve assigned severity and likelihood to each risk, it’s up to you and your stakeholders to decide which risks are most important to address. For example, you should definitely create a contingency plan for a risk that’s high likelihood and high severity, whereas you probably don’t need to create a contingency plan for a risk that’s low likelihood and low severity.

You and your stakeholders should decide where to draw the line.

4. Conduct a business impact analysis

A business impact analysis (BIA) is a deep dive into your operations to identify exactly which systems keep your operations ticking. A BIA will help you predict what impact a specific risk could have on your business and, in turn, the response you and your team should take if that risk were to occur.

Understanding the severity and likelihood of each risk will help you determine exactly how you will need to proceed to minimize the impact of the threat to your business.

For example, what are you going to do about risks that have low severity but high likelihood? What about risks that are high in severity, but relatively low in likelihood?

Determining exactly what makes your business tick will help you create a contingency plan for every risk, no matter the likelihood or severity.

9 steps to lead your business through change [2024] (1)

5. Create contingency plans for the biggest risks

Create a contingency plan for each risk you’ve identified as important. As part of that contingency plan, describe the risk and brainstorm what your team will do if the risk comes to pass. Each plan should include all of the steps you need to take to return to business as usual.

Your contingency plan should include information about:

  • The triggers that will set this plan into motion

  • The immediate response

  • Who should be involved and informed?

  • Key responsibilities, including a RACI chart if necessary

The timeline of your response (i.e. immediate things to do vs. longer-term things to do)

9 steps to lead your business through change [2024] (2)

For example, let’s say you’ve identified a potential staff shortage as a likely and severe risk. This would significantly impact normal operations, so you want to create a contingency plan to prepare for it. Each person on your team has a very particular skill set, and it would be difficult to manage team responsibilities if more than one person left at the same time. Your contingency plan might include who can cover certain projects or processes while you hire a backfill, or how to improve team documentation to prevent siloed skillsets.

6. Get approval for contingency plans

Make sure relevant company leaders know about the plan and agree with your course of action. This is especially relevant if you’re creating team- or department-level plans. By creating a contingency plan, you’re empowering your team to respond quickly to a risk, but you want to make sure that course of action is the right one. Plus, pre-approval will allow you to set the plan in motion with confidence—knowing you’re on the right track—and without having to ask for approvals beforehand.

7. Share your contingency plans

Once you’ve created your contingency plans, share them with the right people. Make sure everyone knows what you’ll do, so if and when the time comes, you can act as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Keep your contingency plans in a central source of truth so everyone can easily access them if necessary.

Creating a project in a work management platform is a great way of distributing the plan and ensuring everyone has a step-by-step guide for how to enact it.

8. Monitor contingency plans

Review your contingency plan frequently to make sure it’s still accurate. Take into account new risks or new opportunities, like new hires or a changing business landscape. If a new executive leader joins the team, make sure to surface the contingency plan for their review as well.

9. Create new contingency plans (if necessary)

It’s great if you’ve created contingency plans for all the risks you found, but make sure you’re constantly monitoring for new risks. If you discover a new risk, and it has a high enough severity or likelihood, create a new contingency plan for that risk. Likewise, you may look back on your plans and realize that some of the scenarios you once worried about aren’t likely to happen or, if they do, they won’t impact your team as much.

Create a contingency plan template

Common contingency planning pitfalls—and how to avoid them

A contingency plan is a powerful tool to help you get back to normal business functions quickly. To ensure your contingency planning process is as smooth as possible, watch out for common pitfalls, like:

Lack of buy-in

It takes a lot of work to create a contingency plan, so before you get started, ensure you have support from executive stakeholders. As you create your plan, continuously check in with your sponsors to ensure you’ve addressed key risks and that your action plan is solid. By doing so, you can ensure your stakeholders see your contingency plan as something they can get behind.

Bias against “Plan B” thinking

Some company cultures don’t like to think of Plan B—they like to throw everything they have at Plan A and hope it works. But thinking this way can actually expose your team to more risks than if you proactively create a Plan B.

Think of it like checking the weather before going sailing so you don’t accidentally get caught in a storm. Nine times out of ten, a clear sunny day won’t suddenly turn stormy, but it’s always better to be prepared. Creating a contingency plan can help you ensure that, if a negative event does occur, your company will be ready to face it and bounce back as quickly as possible.

One-and-done contingency plans

It takes a lot of work to put a contingency plan together. Sometimes when you’ve finished, it can be tempting to consider it a job well done and forget about it. But make sure you schedule regular reminders (maybe once or twice a year) to review and update your contingency plan if necessary. If new risks pop up, or if your business operations change, updating your contingency plan can ensure you have the best response to negative events.

9 steps to lead your business through change [2024] (3)

You’ve created a contingency plan—now what?

A contingency plan can be a lot of work to create, but if you ever need to use it, you’ll be glad you made one. In addition to creating a strong contingency plan, make sure you keep your plan up-to-date.

Being proactive can help you mitigate risks before they happen—so make sure to communicate your contingency plan to the team members who will be responsible for carrying them out if a risk does happen. Don’t leave your contingency plan in a document to collect dust—after creating it, you should use it if need be!

Once you’ve created the plan, make sure you store it in a central location that everyone can access, like a work management platform. If it does come time to use one of your contingency plans, storing them in a centrally accessible location can help your team quickly turn plans into action.

Create a contingency plan template

9 steps to lead your business through change [2024] (2024)


What are the 9 steps to the change management process? ›

9 essential steps for successful change management
  1. Start by assessing the need for change. ...
  2. Document proof of the problem. ...
  3. Engage all employees in the discussion. ...
  4. Develop an action plan. ...
  5. Continue to communicate the vision. ...
  6. Learning new strategies and forming new habits. ...
  7. Provide ongoing support. ...
  8. Celebrate even the smallest wins.
Oct 10, 2019

How do you lead a company through a change process? ›

Here are several ways to lead through change:
  1. Assemble a strong leadership team ahead of time. ...
  2. Bring in outside help. ...
  3. Recruit from within. ...
  4. Make a plan. ...
  5. Designate a spokesperson. ...
  6. Hold a meeting. ...
  7. Educate and explain. ...
  8. Create a transition team.
Dec 27, 2022

What are the 5 C's of successful organizational change? ›

Change management goes beyond just implementing new strategies; it requires a deep understanding of the human side of change. The 5 C's – communication, commitment, culture, capability, and coordination – play a vital role in leading teams through transition periods.

What are the stages of change in business? ›

The Change Curve is a popular model organizations can use to understand the different stages people and the organization go through when a change occurs. There are four key stages people tend to go through as they experience change. These are: shock/denial, anger/fear, acceptance, and commitment.

What are the 10 processes of change and how are these processes divided? ›

The ten processes of change are consciousness raising, counterconditioning, dramatic relief,environmental reevaluation, helping relationships, reinforcement management, self-liberation,self-reevaluation, social-liberation, and stimulus control. The processes of change are defined in the table below.

What are the 7 C's of change management? ›

The Social Change Model of Leadership based on seven dimensions, or values, called the “Seven C's”: consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, common purpose, controversy with civility, collaboration, and citizenship.

What are the 3 C's of change? ›

The Three C's of Change Management: Communication, Collaboration and Commitment.

What is one key to leading a successful change? ›

The key to any successful change management initiative is having effective leaders who not only embrace change, but also effectively lead others through change. Organizational change isn't always predictable and can occur at any time. As a result, leaders must be flexible and ready to recognize the need for change.

What are the best change management strategies? ›

Below are the seven ways leaders can effectively manage change in their organizations.
  • Put people first. ...
  • Work with a change management model. ...
  • Empower employees through communication. ...
  • Activate leadership. ...
  • Make change compelling and exciting. ...
  • Pay attention to high and low points in momentum. ...
  • Don't ignore resistance to change.
Jan 30, 2024

What are the 8 steps for successful organizational change? ›

Implementing Change Powerfully and Successfully
  • Step 1: Create Urgency. ...
  • Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition. ...
  • Step 3: Create a Vision for Change. ...
  • Step 4: Communicate the Vision. ...
  • Step 5: Remove Obstacles. ...
  • Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins. ...
  • Step 7: Build on the Change. ...
  • Step 8: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture.

What are the six stages of organizational change? ›

Subsequently, the model comprised six emotional stages: denial and anger, bargaining, depression, revising, deserting and acceptance. The results show that individuals can move freely between the first four stages, but deserting and acceptance are always the final stages.

What are the 4 major components of organizational change? ›

For successful change implementation in organizations, there are 4 main components serving as pillars holding up the change. These pillars are various distinct phases of evolution – planning, leadership, management, and maintenance of change.

What is the 7 model of change? ›

The McKinsey 7S Model refers to a tool that analyzes a company's “organizational design.” The goal of the model is to depict how effectiveness can be achieved in an organization through the interactions of seven key elements – Structure, Strategy, Skill, System, Shared Values, Style, and Staff.

What is the most difficult stage in the change process? ›

Stage 1: Unfreeze

Our article, Beckhard and Harris' Change Equation , explores a useful tool for helping your team to understand why change is necessary. This first part of the change process is usually the most difficult and stressful.

What are the four C's of change management? ›

Facebook. This course builds on the 4Cs of Change Management Framework developed by CSC - Committing to Change, Capacitating to Change, Contributing and Collaborating to Change, and Celebrating and Continuing Change.

What are the 8 steps to change management? ›

  • Creating an Urgency: This can be done in the following ways: ...
  • Forming Powerful Guiding Coalitions. ...
  • Developing a Vision and a Strategy. ...
  • Communicating the Vision. ...
  • Removing Obstacles. ...
  • Creating Short-Term Wins. ...
  • Consolidating Gains. ...
  • Anchoring Change in the Corporate Culture.

What are the key steps in change management? ›

What is the change management process?
  1. Prepare for change. This step involves understanding the necessary changes and preparing staff members and stakeholders for what's to come. ...
  2. Create a vision for change. ...
  3. Implement changes. ...
  4. Embed and solidify changes. ...
  5. Review and analyze.
Dec 1, 2023

What are the 10 aspects of change management Prosci? ›

That's where we get the 10 aspects: processes, systems, tools, job roles, critical behaviors, mindsets/attitudes/beliefs, reporting structure, performance reviews, compensation and location. This is a deceivingly simple but profoundly helpful list of facets present in times of change.


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