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When it comes to business continuity, many teams get bogged down in the details when they’re looking to implement a new program or mature an existing one.
The reality is, for most organizations, it’s rare for most things to line up exactly like we want, and even more rare for that to happen perfectly.
So, when it comes to successful business continuity program development, your focus shouldn’t be on perfection. Instead, focus on quick wins that get you started and then develop a target profile that helps guide you to where you want to be.
That’s what we chatted about recently in episode two of season two of our podcast, “Business Interrupted,” with Shane Mathew, senior manager of business resilience at Zoom, where our focus wasn’t on perfecting programs, but developing ones that have a stickiness factor for operational resilience.
Imagine this scenario: You’ve been brought in to fix a problem, but the existing business continuity plan is well past its expiration date.
You know the organization is in desperate need of a new and updated program and you come out fully enthusiastic with a great plan to make that happen.
Except you realize at the get-go that things don’t move as quickly within this organization as you’d like. Your executives and key stakeholders are not on board and they don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish or why it’s important.
There’s a lot of pressure on you and your team to create a perfect program and before you know it, you’re so focused on the details and trying to force alignment, you stall out.
That’s a familiar story with many business continuity programs. And unfortunately, it’s a good reason why industry professionals often burn out or lose enthusiasm for what they’re trying to accomplish.
The reality is resilience management success isn’t about the most perfectly crafted business continuity program. It’s about creating one that sets a foundation for quick wins and enables you to move forward, building program maturity over time.
Many organizations still take a check-box approach to developing a business continuity program. And while that’s helpful to ensure that you don’t miss some important elements, what many teams quickly discover is that approach doesn’t work well for true business resilience, especially for scaling organizations.
When organizations grow, there is often shifting focus for business objectives and goals. That could include new employees, products, services, or locations. Or in some instances, layoffs and cutbacks.
A checkbox approach to business continuity development often loses sight of these issues, building a hard line of division between what the business continuity program is designed to do and the direction your organization is going.
That approach makes it increasingly challenging to accurately assess new risks and their potential impact on your operational resilience. And, maybe even worse than that, business continuity programs built from that legacy checkbox approach often meet the end of their shelf life, long before anticipated. Instead of maturing the existing program, teams often face complete teardowns and rebuilds.
Instead, a more successful approach to program development is to adjust your business continuity program development practices to be more resilient, more lasting. It’s about giving them a “stickiness factor” that will make then stick around and get stronger over time.
Related to operational resilience, there is always a continuum of ongoing activities. This can span weeks, months, or in some cases, years.
So, what do you do when a disruption occurs or there’s a change in your compliance or regulatory expectations. How do you adjust without reinventing the wheel?
If you’re always waiting for that perfect pitch to make your first move, you might never end up on base and you’ll never move closer to mastering the resilience management game.
When you’re building your initial program, remember, you’re trying to get all of your tools ready and set up, Mathew advises.
But it’s not about order of operations here. It’s about achieving goals that move your program forward.
Your first step might be to get a business continuity management platform up and running. Once you tackle that win, maybe your next step is to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA). From there, you might focus on developing your first critical plans, before moving on to testing and exercises.
Eventually, you’ll move through important first steps to get your program off the ground. That could be a matter of weeks or months, depending on organizational complexity and goals.
Your goal is to accomplish wins fast, and then work on perfecting your approach later.
For example, you don’t need to make sure that you have every single BIA complete before you move to the planning phase. Hit high level, such as most critical operations and most plausible disruptions, and go from there. Or maybe focus first on regulatory or compliance requirements and then work on other program enhancing elements.
“And generally, the way I look at it is there are parts of the organization that are more susceptible to disruption than others,” Mathew said. “Or historically that may have been the reason why you got called in to start this program. So go there. You know, don’t just do a blanket BIA. Start there and get that done. Get a plan done; get an exercise done. And if you can do that in the first six weeks to the first month or two, that’s an amazing victory.”
“And that to me is, is far more important than trying to set up the perfect program, which I think we tend to do.”
Many organizations now talk about operational resilience in terms of organizational culture, which is important, but if we want to build programs that truly stick and get stronger over time, then why not think about making business continuity fun for everyone?
Traditionally, teams have approached business continuity from a risk management approach. And while that’s certainly important, no one wants to sit around for hours and talk about risks, then complete a questionnaire, and get bombarded by follow-up questions.
Most employees just hate that approach.
To take some resistance out of your program, consider gamifying experiences for your teams.
For example, develop a game that helps your team identify risks.
Mathew shared an example where a team built a Battleship game board and created little ships that represented each product line and from there built dependencies, which captured the team’s attention far more than just sitting, listening, and collecting data.
“There are all sorts of techniques out there,” Mathew said, “but it’s important for you to adopt that mentality. I don’t want people to think this is boring.”
When it comes to successful and lasting business continuity programs, it’s not about trying to solve all your problems all at once. Instead, it’s about developing and implementing simple fixes that have lasting impact, and, in best cases, don’t cost a lot.
Ask: Are there short-term, effective solutions that can mitigate your risks?
For example, let’s say your traditional business continuity plan requires a certain team to repair a specific item on your production line. What happens when that team is unavailable or it will take too long? Is there a way to replace or switch out the product in the short-term that’s cost-effective and decreases downtime?
“You can oftentimes find it’s small, little things like this that can really go a long way,” Mathew said.
One final point to not overlook in developing a lasting and effective business continuity program is to ensure your program works, regardless of which team members are in which roles. You don’t want to build a program that’s centered around one specific person or department.
As we’ve seen during the pandemic-driven “Great Resignation” for employees, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one person’s basket. You need to ensure your program is strong enough to withstand changes and can run effectively, no matter who guides the program.
“It can’t just be about you, you as a program,” Mathew said. “You have to develop your systems, your programs, your activities with the sight that if you’re not here, would this continue on? Would this activity go further without your help? And I think that’s the way to look at it if you want to maintain or ensure stickiness.”
Want to learn more about how you can build more effective and lasting business continuity programs? Listen to the full episode, “The Stickiness Factor with Shane Mathew,” which is available from Castellan or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
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