Business Continuity - A Child's View

Mar 7, 2008 | Publisher: arjarosz | Category: Other |  

Business Continuity – A Child’s View Andy Jarosz, Bsc Hons, MBA Director, docleaf Mention Business Continuity (BC) to an outsider, and we often see one of two reactions: fear or boredom. It can indicate a whole lot of extra work to an already over-burdened manager, or can threaten to expose and challenge every aspect of their job in such a way that takes them well outside of their comfortable bubble. But this should not be so. After all, we have all been BC practitioners since our childhood! This personal reflection argues that the concepts behind BC are common place in our everyday life, and that by tapping into the innate reasoning of our audience we can fully engage them in both the importance and simplicity of adopting an appropriate mindset. My first memory of BC practice is as a 4 year old boy who was terrified of thunder. In my mind, when en electric storm started there was a more than 50% chance that the house would receive a direct hit and be instantaneously vaporised, along with all of its inhabitants. I performed a risk impact analysis, and the conclusion was that the risk was very high, and the impact would be fatal. I was therefore fully justified in my anxiety, and was somewhat frustrated at the seemingly ignorant folks around me who laughed and joked and went about their everyday lives with disregard to the impending disaster. Fortunately, as a child who was solution driven I had learned through a reliable source that lightning entered the house through electrical sockets. I suspect we all learned this at an early age. Armed with this additional information, I was able to mitigate the risk by visiting every corner of every room in the house and unplugging each appliance. My elder brothers were not amused at missing the second half of a particularly important match, but my selfless act of courage did remove a grave risk from our property, and enabled us to proceed to adulthood. In this case my own confidence in my risk analysis, made from somewhat suspect science, was unshakable and yet was put at rest through a piece of equally absurd reasoning. The limitation of my BC plan here was the lack of real experience in surviving, and being impacted by, major electrical storms, that had led me to establish a false basis for my risk assessment, and an equally unreliable mitigation strategy. But how often do we see the same types of logic applied by those running major organisations? The initial assessment of risks and their consequences is only as good as the information that is put into that process – and that information is constrained by the knowledge, prejudices and motivations of those who supply it. The resulting strategies are then further clouded by our own perceptions and experiences. Maybe this explains why if you ask three BC practitioners for their opinion on an issue, you should expect at least five different answers. And yet, this should not deter us from identifying the risks around us. We do it every day – should I cross on that amber light? Should I take out that expensive insurance policy or take the chance? Do I allow my kids to go to that dubious sounding party? These are real life risk impact analyses, and they tap into our rational fears and test our ability to think about how we can maintain the normal operations of our lives in the face of the unwanted unexpected. My second story of developing BC practice is set three years later when, at the age of seven, I established my first back-up operations facility. In a childhood that now on reflection seems fraught with danger and near destruction at every turn, I carefully contemplated with my brother and a friend the likeliness of nuclear holocaust. (Before you are too harsh on me and suggest the need for psychiatric help, I would plead in my defence that the late 70’s were a time were such thoughts were commonplace and even encouraged by the state). We had the perfect bomb-proof facility, in the form of a cupboard under the stairs. All we needed now was to stock it with all the essentials that would be required to maintain normal operations. So the three of us sat down and established what assets needed protection by removal to the site at the time of disaster, what would need to be duplicated within the site, and what the storage capability was within our site. We then worked out a list of the things that were required, and set about stocking our recovery site. Clearly our parents would not be involved in this plan. For a start they were not the right size to fit into the facility, and therefore would have to be sacrificed. However, an ample supply of sweets, chocolates and comic books were deemed to be suitable items to include. We also needed liquids, but were confined to water as this was the only item we could safely remove without suspicion. For that reason, the tin opener and cans of soup were discarded, despite the government’s advice in support of this in their Civil Contingency broadcasts. Fortunately, we never needed to relocate to the emergency facility, and we happily depleted the emergency supplies without negative consequence. But for us, it gave us a feeling of comfort and satisfaction, even smugness, to know that we were prepared for whatever the Russians could throw at us, while others had ignored the risks and continued as normal. But we still have that same mindset now – what junk does a businessman keep in his briefcase – “just in case”. And I won’t even venture into the topic of women’s handbags! The idea of developing back-up plans and facilities is a natural, if far more complex, extension of hording comfort items for a rainy day. I challenge anyone to show me an owner manager of a business who has developed a list of essential items for their disaster plan that does not include at least one item that is completely useless to the ongoing functioning of the organisation, but that they would emotionally find it hard to do without. BC is not rocket science. The basic concepts that underpin a BC strategy are understood by all, and are actually engaging to the average manager. The challenge is to put the issues to them in a language that taps into this natural curiosity and need for comfort and to produce a plan that will be adopted across the organisation.

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