Business, Interrupted: Adopting New Skill Sets to Evolve as Continuity and Resilience Professionals


As the threat landscape and risks continue to evolve and expand in business continuity and operational resilience for organizations of all sizes around the globe, it is becoming increasingly more important for industry professionals to evolve and change with it. It’s a time of transformation and with that comes the need to continuously add to our skill sets, letting our experiences guide us toward opportunities to be ever-more prepared to deal with the next big disaster or disruption for our workplaces.

In a recent episode of Castellan’s new podcast, “Business, Interrupted,” Cheyene Marling, managing director of BC Management, chatted with Michele Turner, head of global business resiliency at Amazon, about the importance of those evolutions and learning opportunities throughout her career, especially valuable lessons learned while overcoming a range of challenges. For example, evolving her knowledge into the ever-complex arenas of compliance and governance.

Turner calls business continuity her first love, adding that in her role at Microsoft, she had a unique opportunity to integrate risk management into business continuity, initiating an operational enterprise risk management program that united governance with business continuity as an operational risk.

From there, each new opportunity daisy-chained growth to evolve and develop her skill set, something critically important for successful business continuity and related professionals today.

It’s what Turner now calls a triple whammy of skills—continuity, crisis management, and workplace resilience.

From Disaster Recovery to Operational Resilience

It’s not uncommon for many business continuity professionals to get their first real-world experiences during natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe weather-related events. Not long ago in the industry, there were distinct lines between disaster recovery and business continuity in many industries, even though they both work toward the same goal—operational survivability.

The modern transition doesn’t just blur lines between the two; it breaks down silos to improve how businesses function before, during, and after a disruptive event. With that comes the symbiotic relationships also with the roles of governance for resiliency and risk management.

“Well, it should, because we don’t want to get stale,” Turner said. “We want to make sure that we’re growing with the business, that we’re being embedded into the culture of the organization. And we’ve got a great view—that top line view—of all the critical services and functions. So we need to make sure that we stay at that elevated level.”

But merging all of these skills and disciplines into a cohesive unit doesn’t come without challenges, and sometimes the stumbling block can be through understanding, acceptance, and involvement of executive leadership and key stakeholders.

Turner says she was blessed for most of her career to have that important executive sponsorship for her programs. That support helped her overcome organizational silos that otherwise may have slowed her program’s momentum or success.

Building Engagement

When it comes to overcoming stumbling blocks like that, the key is often found in encouraging, increasing, and sustaining engagement at various levels across your organization.

That includes building an organizational culture that ensures participants understand their roles in the comprehensive program and mission, and that these important programs aren’t just checkbox exercises. They’re part of a larger goal—to ensure operational resilience with ongoing risk management.

Turner recommends getting a clear understanding of where you have challenges and then developing a clear story that demonstrates how you can assist with risk mitigation through business continuity.

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Evolving Beyond Your Comfort Zone

What we often see as industry professionals work toward this organizational unity and culture of resilience engagement is that it forces us often out of our comfort zones, meaning we often try new things or take a fresh approach to some of the more common elements of our programs.

For Turner, that included the willingness to try and adapt to new technologies and understand the roles various technical logical components play in the risk landscape, as well as response and recovery strategies.

But it was more than technological resources that helped get Turner out of her comfort zone and evolve along with the industry.

Evaluating and then improving her own communication skills was also invaluable.

As a result, Turner challenged herself to improve her communication skills and find a voice so she could  confidently and accurately share valuable—and relatable—information for business continuity and risk management discussions.

Overcoming Pandemic Challenges and How They’ll Shape the Future

The past year or so has been challenging for everyone, especially business continuity professionals who’ve had to adapt processes and thinking to evolve with the changing environment related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The key here is flexibility, especially when it comes to operational resilience. It’s important for teams to look beyond instant ramifications of a disruption and be able to adapt and pivot as the disruption complexity or duration change.

In addition to flexibility, the past year has also highlighted how important it is to be able to prioritize risks and response—understanding what’s critical for operational resilience and how to adjust as our environment and risk rapidly change.

Situational Awareness

Looking back on her career and the transitions fueled by the past year, Turner reflects on the importance of industry professionals being adaptable to expand soft skills, especially situational awareness and the ability to adapt to change.

“Situational awareness right off the top. You have to recognize, ‘OK, where am I right now? What are some of the things that I should have an eye out for? What type of homework should I be doing in order to be prepared for those conversations?’ but then right on the heels of that, you’ve got to make sure that you have the emotional intelligence to understand. You can have all of the certifications in the world. I could know exactly how to rip down a server and put it back together, but if I don’t have that emotional intelligence to know how to communicate effectively, then my message in general … will not get across.”

And as a change agent, it’s about getting comfortable with looking beyond your small piece of the puzzle for the bigger picture of organizational resilience.

“…You need to be able to use all of those other competencies … to really influence others and affect change from a business continuity perspective,” Turner said.

Would you like to hear more of our conversation with Michelle Turner and explore how evolving your professional skills can help make you a better operational-focused resilience professional? Check out the full podcast episode, “Embracing New Skillsets with Michele Turner,” from Castellan or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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