Communicating BCM Program Issues

I’ve just finished reading an interesting article in the latest edition of the Continuity Insights magazine (Volume 8/#1). It was by a man who was talking about whether or not a BCM practitioner should tell the truth when it comes to obvious flaws – or gaps – in corporate BCM programs and plans.  The article goes on to discuss other matters but this single point stuck in my head.  Should a BCM practitioner stand up and be counted and come forward with program issues or keep quite.  By stating the gaps in the wrong way, the truth presented could do harm to people (i.e. executives, managers, employees…) involved with the programs’ development and participation.

Being honest about gaps may be tricky, especially when the BCM program received a significant amount of support and involvement from executive management.  Is it right to tell them that what they have been building and supporting has ‘gapping holes’?  Should a practitioner tell a ‘white lie’ that if not brought to the attention of executives (or whoever is responsible for BCM) could be disastrous for the corporation when it experiences a disaster?  They may have build plans and processes in place but yet the practitioner may find that it doesn’t meet the need of the organization or that some plans simply wouldn’t be useful during a crisis.  The last think a BCM practitioner may want to do is upset senior executives and it may harm future opportunities for the one who brings forth the bad news.

Personally, I think we should be in the middle.  There are ways to tell truth and identify gaps without being rude, crude, and abusive or de-moralizing those who’ve worked very hard to develop the program and plans.  We shouldn’t show how ‘smart’ we are (with BCM anyway…) by finding fault in others.  If the program has support and people are actively working on the program – and making progress – this should be seen as a good thing.  However, sometimes it might be necessary to have a ‘place marker’ type of conversations, where we can point out signs that can improve a program but not in a way to deter people from wanting to participate.

If you’re identifying faults then do it in a reasonable and respective manner.  You must provide sound reason as to why the change – or deviation from the existing path – will help the company build a more robust program, just providing a list of ‘slips’ won’t help your cause.  Don’t just say this is wrong or that is wrong, but try and provide some insight – teach – as to why the deviation is required.

You can start by identifying all the great pieces of the program – and there will be – and then state the bits that you have (the identified gaps) that can help build a stronger plan.  The emphasis should be on what they have done already and how good it is – and how what they have is close to be great by taking some (or all) of your suggestions.   That positive outlook can really boost the confidence of people and make them want to continue to contribute.

I say this through personal experience.  I was working with a client who had many differing components haphazardly strung together yet I could see they were trying to put all the pieces together but struggling.  I used the same approach noted above and they paid attention and began to offer more and more suggestions to make things better.  To quote myself, I said “the seeds have been planted, now let’s get them growing.”  It was an off the cuff kind of comment and it was only after I said this that I remember I’m working with an Agriculture focused company.  They smiled and took to the idea.

Never be condescending or negative when conveying matters – even if we (the practitioners) know of large errors or gaping holes in a plan or program.  I know I’ve met many an auditor who sit at a table and basically go on a diatribe about everything they found wrong and having nothing positive to say.  And some wonder why audit gets given a bad name…

There are ways to communicate gaps correctly and if we communicate correctly, we can help a corporation build robust programs.  Not by standing on a soap box stating what a corporation should/shouldn’t have but by allowing corporations to celebrate their victories and helping them discover opportunities for more victories. 

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