The above statement was quoted by the boxer Mike Tyson and, given all the hype and bravado that goes on before a boxing match, one can understand why he would have coined such a phrase. In subsequent interviews he went on to explain that it actually has a wider application to all sorts of aspects of our lives.

It got me thinking.

Business Continuity managers spend a lot of time preparing, approving, promoting and validating plans but when faced with an exercise or a real event it is not uncommon for teams and individuals to simply ‘dive in’ and form a response based on experience and common sense compounded by an eagerness to deal with the situation quickly. In an exercise I ran recently one of the participants remarked that ‘we should have a checklist for this’ – it was a great moment to remind them of the existence of the plan!

So the first problem is not that the plan itself falls apart when faced with an event, takes a hit, but that teams and individuals forget to use it.

Business Continuity Plans are also based on logical assumptions and expectations which if not realised can have the effect of reducing confidence in the plan. For this reason I am not a big fan of separate Business Continuity Plans for different scenarios – sure, it is prudent to have specific plans for large scale, complex or high risk scenarios but below a certain level the actions and strategies become more consistent, a more uniform process. The key challenge is that organisations have to be ready for the next event they are confronted with, the cause and effect of which they may not have considered or faced before. The plan therefore needs to be capable of being applied and, if necessary, adapted, to the situation at the time so if it is too rigid or too specific teams may be uncertain as to its’ suitability.

So the second problem is that plans need to provide a basis for dealing with all sorts of scenarios – getting hit from the left, getting hit from the right, to the head, to the body and so on.

Now then, if there’s a risk that our Business Continuity Plans are vulnerable what about doing away with them altogether? Could we take a different approach?

I like to think of Business Continuity as a process, so should we develop our Business Continuity capabilities in this way, replace plans with processes?

Typically organisations are used to preparing Business Continuity plans partly because it gives them a tangible artefact to offer auditors, regulators and due diligence enquiries when called upon. Additionally at a practical level the purpose of the plan is to direct action, to support execution of a process. In some regards, one could argue that the traditional plan is built up of a collection of processes.

Our organisations execute lots of processes every day, time and time again, efficiently and completely. The processes are likely to be documented but aside from the initial training and practice are generally executed without reference to such material. A process based approach would mean that Business Continuity simply becomes the next process to be applied when certain criteria or situations are met.

The key challenge is around frequency. Production or operational processes are carried out so regularly that they become well practised, well refined and reliable. Because we don’t execute our Business Continuity plan so frequently we do not think of it in the same way as a process.

Possible advantages are that that the organisations’ approach to documenting processes is likely to be well established plus the organisations’ people may find being asked to execute a process less daunting than being asked to follow a plan – the terminology itself implies something distinct and separate.

OK, I’m talking theoretically and for most organisations such an approach would require a mind-set shift.

Finally if there is any truth in Mr Tyson’s statement, whichever approach we take, it must ensure we are ready, adaptable and flexible enough to deal with anything that hits our organisations. Whether we are still standing afterwards depends on ensuring our approach and response is effective.

October 20, 2016 at 3:51 pm
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Category: Planning