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Were business continuity procedures sufficient for the pandemic? 

Each year business continuity leaders and crisis teams come together to execute what can only be described as their worst day. Extracted from their day jobs these individuals, at the mercy of their risk teams, are presented with a real threat that they then must manoeuvre under realistic conditions to a positive strategic outcome. 

New crisis team members come together to focus on the strategic response of an event off the back of the business continuity panel’s operational response. With experienced hands, and the continual focus on plans, preparations at an organisational level – you may be led to believe assurance of overall success. 

Yet when faced with a novel event, teams need to pivot to a different set of rules that bypass, sometimes, meticulously trained response mechanisms. 

What are novel events and how do they arise? 

They are generally encountered in one of three situations:

  1. The triggering event is outside the risk bearer’s realm of imagination or experience, or happens somewhere far away.
  2. Multiple routine breakdowns combine to trigger a major failure.
  3. The risk materializes very rapidly and on an enormous scale.

Organisations that regularly deal with fast-evolving situations know the importance of preparing for the unexpected. 

Yet, the pandemic – one example of a novel event – left many teams without a pre-existing playbook. Reaching for solutions that worked well in other crises but failed to deliver under the circumstances of the pandemic and developing the need for rapid change to response mechanisms. 

So how do crisis teams prepare for the next novel event? 

Decades of behavioural research shows that people pay attention to information that confirms their beliefs but disregard it when it conflicts with them. Experienced teams can reinforce established response patterns that do not always translate well to novel risks, whereby the best approach may be counter intuitive.

How do experienced teams bring forth the experience of shock and uncertainty in annual exercise activities? 

Make it a part of learned behaviour. 

  1. Practice doing more with less. Involve resource scarcity of some kind during your next planned exercise. Example: Drop the crisis / business continuity lead from the exercise.
  2. Disrupt the embedded response through role cross-training. All individuals seek the experience of how other roles on the crisis team function, developing a better idea and perspective of how your role depends upon others. Example: Each response team member takes on a role different to their own.
  3. Give up control. Empower rapid decision-making to different people including to experts in coordinating teams such as incident or operational response. Example: Don’t allow the team to get stuck in the weeds, ensure the response focus is purely at the strategic level and delegation works.
  4. Independent viewpoint. Gain an expert opinion through an independent observer on the approaches used and whether the team favours a particular one. Assess the evidence to understand the ability to think innovatively. Example: Contract a consultant to observe your next exercise. 

The beauty of disrupting your routines and learning new ways to solve problems in anticipation of a crisis is improvisation, which will make it better able to cope when met with uncertainty.

Call to action:

  1. Get uncomfortable during your next exercise, allow teams to find their edge and practice in a safe environment the skills needed to respond to a novel event. Break rigid patterns and build muscle memory in how to apply the foundational elements of a business continuity plan/crisis response and/or plan to an event that the organisation would not ordinarily allocate resources to prevent. This training will further strengthen and build business continuity and crisis capability and confidence under all situations.
  2. Find the right consultant that understands the art form of delivering on these delicate objectives. With the right consultant to guide you, team members come out of it as a positive learning experience and with the confidence to tackle what comes next.

Getting smarter with how you function under high stress situations and cope with improvised decision-making, and still perform are all active components of a good exercise program. Allow RiskLogic’s depth of field experience, team of experts and industry acumen to support the preparation and delivery of your next exercise. 

A fresh approach with expanded objectives for mature teams can best prepare you for the next crisis – both personally and as a team.

Source: The Risks You Can’t Foresee