Who Steers the Ship

I’ve received quite a few comments and email about the ownership of the BCM program and who should drive it.  I thought I’d add a bit more to that and provide some personal experience as to what I’ve done in the past to make BCM continually move forward and become a respected program within a corporate – not just an after thought.   I’ve used many of the below suggestions – to varying degrees – but all of them have worked for me and help those that are involved with the program.  Take a look and see if there’s anything that might help you in your programs or recognize anything that you’re already doing.  Of course, if you have suggestions that might help others in the BCM field, don’t hold back – share your ideas.
(BTW, these are in no particular order – and I’ve tried to keep it a bit high-level.)
  1. Provide regular updates as to the status of your projects and BCM program.  It takes many smaller projects to make a program (i.e. Risk Analysis, BIAs…etc) to help build the program so ensure that you provide the sponsor(s) – usually Executive Management – an update as to how each step is progressing; the successes and the challenges.  If we only provide one update – or very inconsistent updates – the sponsor(s) won’t see any value coming out of what you’re doing.  It’ll be because they aren’t kept up to date on things and will themselves begin to think less and less of the program and support (both financial and physical and moral) will begin to wane.  Keep them as up to speed on what’s going on as much as you might be doing for others. 
  2. If you do encounter issues or roadblocks with personnel not wanting to contribute to the BCM initiative (they provide much of the information we need, right?) don’t be afraid to go straight to the sponsor(s) and ‘tell it like it is.’  They appointed you to get a job done so if it doesn’t get done guess who they are going to be looking at?  It’ll be you.  No matter what, if you don’t address the issues (I.e. people not wanting to help) they will only ask why you didn’t ask for help.  Personally I’ve found over the years that executives are more than willing to help out and see people succeed.  Granted, there are those that don’t really care and aren’t approachable by any standard but they are far outnumbered by those who do – and will – help.  So don’t be afraid to seek assistance.  To add to that thought, here’s a true story from by own experience: I always booked a meeting room that was on the same floor as the President and all the Senior VPs because no one else wanted to be up there and get ‘cornered’ with questions from anybody senior.  I knew the room would be free almost all the time and it let me be seen by the upper levels of the corporation.  One day I was walking down the hall, passing all the executive assistants (and making sure to say ‘hello’) and the executive offices (again, making sure I said ‘hello’ where appropriate) when a Senior VP of Client Services stepped out of his office and turned in my direction.  He smiled, stood still and said, “Oh no, I don’t owe you something do I?”  I told him he didn’t but I’d be back to make a nuisance of myself soon enough.  He laughed and said that if I had any problems to “..to give him a shout.”  Just people knowing that I had that kind of relationship with the Senior Mgmt helped because it showed the Executive supported what I – as the BCM guy – was doing.  It wasn’t a scare tactic my no means (at least not in this particular corporate setting) and really helps.  So if you can get a good relationship going with your executives, don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it – you might find they’ll want to help even when you don’t need it.  And lets face it, how often will that happen?
  3. The people you want to work with as you build your program should be appointed by the Executives right from the beginning.  At my current engagement the first this I did when I sat with the Executive team was to ask for designates for each line of business that I would meet with on a regular basis to help build the program.  They provided about about 8 names – representing each of the lines of business in the company – and I took it from there.  They became my main point of contacts and we met on a regular basis to discuss BCM topics and plans of action to build the various plan and projects.  Of course, they would designate people in their areas to do much of the work on behalf of their division but it was the original 8 people who knew they were responsible for the information/deliverables that came out of the meetings and initiatives and they made sure things went according to plan.  It’s one of the best situations I’ve ever had the pleasure of working in.  People were paying attention when you were in meetings and they really wanted to help – granted, I was well aware that some were just trying to ‘brown nose’ with the guy who had the ear of Executives but again, most weren’t like that.  The Steering Committee members (the 8 assigned by the executive) really helped  get the right people at the tables to discuss things – they knew what was going on in their areas and who I should talk to about specific subjects.  I’m coming close to ending this engagement but this committee was instrumental in building the program to where it is now – I’m proud of how they committed themselves.
  4. When describing what needs to be done for BCM don’t just spout off the usual.  Provide the reasons for why a program is needed – or the development of a component that’s missing – in terms they will understand.  Meaning, what the impact is on them and their operations – and possible employment – if something isn’t done (i.e. a BIA).  Telling people they need it because its good business doesn’t buy the support – sorry, it just doesn’t.  But describing how much information the BIA can provide and how it helps build other components of the program (to make it easier to identify required planning activities etc) may allow people to see the value in what you’re proposing and get behind it to make it successful.  Remember, it has to be successful for them – not you.  Of course, if they see the success and make it a success you will be successful but they have to see if from their perspective, not yours.  The term “What’s In It For Me” comes to mind – and that’s what people with think so make sure they understand how something (i.e. the BCM program) can help them be a success.  
  5. Nothing irks me more than attending meetings with no agendas, no minutes or issue logs and no real meeting/forum/session leader; its just a ‘gap’ session that goes no where.  I make sure that every meeting has an agenda (I decline meetings if I’ve not received an agenda within 48hrs of the scheduled time) and that minutes/issues are captured.  FYI, I do combine the minutes and issue log into one document just for times sake and its easier for me to track (and as it turns out, everyone else). When you do hold a BCM meeting – especially with the BCMTeam – make sure there are assigned action items, not just blank or general comments about subject discussed.  When that happens people will begin to lessen the value of BCM because all they’re doing is having ‘water chats’ in a meeting room with nothing really coming of it.  So, assign actions to people – as well as yourself – but don’t just have a discussion about a subject and they you go off and do it all.  The Steering Committee members will begin to think you don’t need them and will then not bother with the program.  And by the way, they’ll report that back to their executive member, and then you’ll be left wondering why there’s no support for what you’re doing.  The more people contribute to the building of the programs – by discussion and through assigned action items – the better the program will become because it was built by those who would actually be using the various strategies/contingencies/actions during a crisis or disaster period.  If you do it all, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle all the way.  Or you have a strong start out the gate only to see your horse slowly lag behind and loose the race.    
  6. Sometimes suggestions for program components may not sit right with you.  You may not like what’s being proposed or how the Steering Committee would like to get something done but just go with it if it’s feasible.  As long as the deliverable is agreed to and the end result is what you need to move to the next phase – or helps build/enhance something already created – then go with it.  Again, its the company that needs the program and if they help build it, it will meet the needs of the organization.  What’s also great is that after you’re gone – or someone on the Steering Committee leaves – others know what is going on in the program and can help continue its progression; from projects to program to ongoing maintenance.  They help keep it alive.  So don’t be afraid to let others try new ideas to meet a deliverable if it doesn’t quite match what you had intended. 
There are many other ways to keep your ship on course and meet the destination and if you have any others, feel free to contribute.  As I stated at the beginning, these are just a couple of ideas that have worked for me over the years and by no means is this a complete list of tips – and its not in great detail either.  I thought that out of respect for all those that have contacted me, I’d provide some additional help to get you and your programs on solid ground and out of the rough seas.  Nothings worse than being on the rough waters with no one able to steer your ship.  So let the Steering Committee steer the ship and you help chart the course – you’ll all get where you need to go…together.   



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