All to often when a disaster or serious event occurs at an organization, people look towards the disaster recovery/business continuity expert to make all things run well again. Sometimes if feels like the entire company is dependant upon the guidance and actions of this one person (granted, in some cases there might be a department for business continuity) who on normal days, has a hard time getting their BCM/DR message out to the organization. For most of the time the person can be ignored and their topics of discussion – and concern – are moved to the back burner of many a board room meeting, but when something occurs they are suddenly thrust into the spotlight. It does seem odd that a person with a responsibility that is often thought of as non-critical suddenly becomes the most critical person in the corporation.
Is this right? I don’t believe it is. If the practitioner doesn’t have complete authority over the decisions made on a daily basis when things are running smoothly, how can they suddenly be in charge of the company when disaster strikes and everyone – including executive management – is looking at them for direction? It’s contradictory to how the office or station of the BCM/DR practitioner is viewed when there is not disaster. I’m not suggesting that this is the case for every practitioner and every organization but it is odd how this occurs.
Whose fault is it that this happens? Is it the fault of senior management who may not have have listened to the call of the practitioner and the need to have a solid program in place? The solid program that lacked comprehensive backing and support. It may be the case at some times that there are executives who just don’t give a darn about BCM/DR and would rather not think about it or would rather address the situation when it happens, which can be too late. If the practitioner has tried multiple times to get the message out to the senior leadership team and they continued to ignore him or her, then they really do need to shoulder the blame. Ignorance is not an excuse. just because someone doesn’t like to think about disaster doesn’t mean they aren’t going to occur – they are still out there waiting to happen to unsuspecting – or ignorant – corporations. When senior management ignore BCM/DR, then those that are part of the incident response team/crisis management team or disaster team (whatever name you choose for the structure in your organization) won’t understand their roles and worry about their role because they know that their bosses – the executives – aren’t too concerned with disasters. Instead they would rather focus on building shareholder value, increase revenue and keep expenses down.
Or is it the fault of the BCM practitioner? By this I mean, has the practitioner really tried to get the right message out to management and employees or did they give up after one or two tries. Did they not provide good awareness and training to all those involved; from the senior executive all the way down to the newest employee? Did they utilize multiple methods of conveying the message as not everyone grasps ideas but sitting in front of a screen with busy power point slides full of information. Some may grasp the message when they are part of an exercise (or test) and still others may grasp information easily by reading emails or internal news articles.
If a practitioner doesn’t adapt his or her awareness and training methods to various types of people then the message may only be received by some and lost on many more. It is up to the practitioner to make the message relevant to all levels and manner of people if it’s to be taken seriously and understood. All to often when disasters occur, the response teams (aka “DR” teams) are activated but since they’ve never gone through any formal training – or participated in exercises – don’t really understand what it is they should be doing. When that occurs they’ll ‘wing it’ and that’s when all heck can break loose. None of the teams or team members are in communication – at least not properly or the way the practitioner designed it – and issues are dropped and activities are performed out of sequence or out of the knowledge of other teams and it seems the working of the “DR” teams is worse than the disaster itself. It can be because communication is one of the key areas of any organization – BCM/DR related or not – and it will be the proving ground on how well a response plan works when something occurs.
If the practitioner has done an effective job of continually providing awareness and training for all areas of the corporation then when something does hit the proverbial fan, each team member (and employee for that matter) will know what needs to be done and work effectively to ensure the situation is brought under control quicker and with more cohesion. Ideally, when a disaster or incident occurs, the practitioner should just be making coffee. That may seem idealistic but it’s true. If everyone involved in the organization understand their role and responsibility (regardless of level of involvement in restoration, recovery or emergency response efforts) then they shouldn’t have to look to the practitioner for guidance. Of course, the practitioner in the overall majority of cases would have a role to play – whether that is help be a minute taker for executives (monitoring issues etc) or using a hands-on approach to help coordinate activities.
If awareness and training are executed effectively and continuously (to help build the skills and knowledge of all employees) then when a disaster strikes – jokingly – the practitioner should be able to take the coffee and tea orders of those working away at executing activities because they know what they need to do; they’ve had training; they’ve been involved in communications with other teams and they have practiced what they need to do. Even simply having an employee go home and monitor a phone line is still an activity that needs to be communicated prior to any disaster occurring – as simple as it may be. If people know ahead of time what the expectations are and what they need to do for their part, half the battle of a disaster is already one.
If done right, we practitioners should be worried more about what’s left in the coffee pot, rather than suddenly becoming the saving grace of the organization who rides in on a white stallion to save the day. If we’ve done out jobs right – we already are the saving-graces because everyone can run effectively without us. What better way to prove your value when everyone else can do the role you trained them for. That’s the mark of a great awareness and training program, a great BCM/DR program and a great practitioner.
I’ll take my tea with one sugar please.