If you had to choose between having good people or good Business Continuity plans which would you go for?

I remarked in one of my recent articles that ‘I love working with good people.’ The context was around an exercise I had facilitated where a number of team members had performed really well. It got me thinking. If our organisations have good people do we even need plans at all?

There’s possibly a wider debate to be had on who we write Business Continuity plans for, but let’s park that for now.

Certainly, organisations like the comfort, tangibility and evidence of Business Continuity Plans as they reassure the key stakeholders that as a minimum some thinking and preparation has been undertaken and moreover there are processes, responsibilities and capabilities in place to be used when required.

Plans should therefore be the ‘go to’ reference when Business Continuity events occur so, absolutely, they are required. After all, some of the procedures developed for Business Continuity purposes are only used in anger (aside from exercising) when such events occur, so folk may need to be reminded of the steps required and credentials necessary for execution when needed.   

How far should a Business Continuity plan go then in terms of detail?

Some organisations I have worked with prefer very detailed, step by step, almost idiot proof plans with the thought that pretty much anyone could pick up the plan and save the world. Other clients prefer more of an aide-memoire style to prompt and remind team members of the steps and capabilities necessary to execute correctly.

Already this is leading us into questions about the status and capabilities of the people involved. ‘The style of plan required depends on how good the people are’, I hear you saying.

OK, so let’s consider people.   

Good people will step up to any situation and do their very best to address it. Some will succeed, some will fail. At the most extreme, people could be totally winging it, making it up as they go along, using their experience and common sense to ensure they prevail. This could work but the event may not be managed in the most effective manner. Does that matter to you, provided the organisation survives?

But how do we get our people to be good, and anyway, what does good mean?

I spend quite a bit of time working with teams to ensure they are effective, clear and confident in the processes and plans to be used. If people are fully trained and practised then they should be ‘good’. Think about people undertaking tasks and activities they do every day in your organisation – they don’t refer to plans for such activities – but they have been trained and have undertaken the tasks many times over to become proficient.

The challenge with Business Continuity events is they do not occur every day so it’s perhaps harder to keep people fully effective in the procedures required.

I was talking with a colleague earlier today and when I put the question to him his immediate response was ‘good people, every time’.

What about you? What do you think? Do you risk your Business Continuity arrangements to good people winging it? Do you make your people good through training and practice? Or, do you prepare plans that enable anyone who reads them to be able to execute them?