Like most of you, the events in the Middle East have been nothing short of…well, incredible, nothing short of surprising and unbelievable. Some will say they saw these uprisings coming but in truth, that never made the headlines and wasn’t ever reported on so I doubt they really saw it coming.
The events continue to cause concern around the globe and there can’t be anyone (in the Western world anyway) that isn’t concerned with what might happen in the coming days, weeks, months…and maybe years. No one can know what will happen; in fact, it seems to change on a daily basis; from violence to peaceful protests; from friendly advances and actions to severe crackdowns and killings by security forces. It offers a high level of instability for the area and for us – those that aren’t in the Middle East. What will this all have in store for those in others areas of the world? Will these changes in the Middle East spur changes in other parts of the world? Maybe, maybe not. Still, it is changing the thoughts of many and new ideas and perceptions are beginning to emerge.
Quite some time ago, I wrote a blog titled “Cry Wolf! Is 2012 the Next Y2K for BCM” and it continues to receive allot of views/readings – even a year after it was posted. Lately, I can’t help wonder if the Mayan prophesies help predict these changes. Forget the doomsday prophets and those that spout on about the end of the world; the Mayan prophesies didn’t say the world was ending. What they said is that the world would change and it was the end of a ‘cycle’ not the end of the world.
The years leading up to the December 21, 2012 date would mean a change in the earth environment and a social change. Well, we’re seeing the environmental changes on a consistent basis; tsunamis like never before, increased earthquake activity, snowstorms in areas that don’t normally experience them, increased hurricane and tornado activity and temperatures fluctuating back and forth like a tennis match.
The social changes seem to be what is happening in the Middle East. I can’t find any old reports about change being discussed by governments in the area (though there may be some out there buried deep in newspaper or magazine’s somewhere). It would be a social change that would bring people together and change thinking; I think that’s what happening here. It’s not just changing the thinking of those in these countries but changing the thoughts and perceptions of those around the world. It has too because whatever happens in these areas will have an impact on the foreign policies of many a government. In that respect, this is like dropping a stone into a small pond, where the ripples do make it across the entire surface of the water. In this case, the ripple effect will touch everyone at some point in some manner.
How else is this going to affect us? (FYI – I don’t propose for a moment to be a political expert and the comments below are intentionally kept at a high-level. If you have comments to add and want to provide more detail, please do so to help all our readers. )
- Critical Supply Chains – I mentioned this before so I’m not going to get into all the details again but just say that any suppliers/vendors (upstream or downstream) are going to be impacted someway by these events. Even if they don’t do business in the Middle East, there’s a chance that some part of their supply chain passes through the area (I.e. Suez Canal), which could mean that if you’re dependent upon something by someone who does use these channels, the supply could be cut off or delayed.
- Foreign Policy Changes – The norm won’t and can’t continue as it is. Governments will change and so will their thoughts on how they deal with external partners; other countries. There’s no guarantee these will be negative in nature but then again, there’s no guarantee these will all turn out in our (counties’) favour. It may be that you can no longer do business in a particular area or incentives your corporation used to receive are no longer valid and you can’t afford to do business in these areas any more. Or, the opposite might happen; you can now do business where you couldn’t before, which means many more preparations and many more plans to continue business in areas you didn’t before. Changes in policy may mean that some countries may no longer want to do business with some of these new places and thus, the comfortable partnership you may have had as a result of the friendly partnership, removes the comfort level for you and your staff. You could say that your security or protection is now gone; what are you going to do now? How will you protect your interests?
- Oil Contingencies – Let’s face it, we need this and it does hark back to the supply chain. The costs are going to go up, which means your operation costs are going to go up. You may have to look at other measures to acquire your oil or different sources (suppliers) for oil instead of depending on it from a specific place/provider (obviously the Middle East). It’s better to start determining what you’re going to do rather than waiting until supplies dry up, are shut off or suppliers are no longer able to do business.
- More Focus on Renewable Energy – One of the things I’ve noticed lately, is a much stronger look at renewable sources of energy. I’ve noticed that investments in wind turbines, solar panels and other items has increased. I suppose this is people now focusing on their supply lines and looking for alternatives to oil, especially since it looks like there will be supply disruptions one way or the other. Could be a good time to get into the market…
- Travel / Business Relationship Changes – Consider the possibility of a backlash from demonstrators. If you’re seen as being a ‘friend’ of their target, you will become a target yourself. The relationships you have in place could be jeopardized and things could become difficult for you.
- Corporate Employee Safety – If you’ve got facilities/offices in some of these countries, you may also have staff from other parts of the world. And let’s face it, when parts of the world are angry at their governments, they look to blame and point fingers at friends of the government, which could be your company (whether a valid view or not). This could place people in danger and you need to think of ways to make sure that your employees – especially other nationalities – are taken care of when these types of disasters/strikes/crises occur. You aren’t just making sure you have evacuation plans for a fire but now – in light of today’s world events – you have to look at evacuation plans for those in other countries to get them out safely. At the least, make plans that will help them be safe, even if that means they don’t leave the country in question.
- Travel / Tourism – if you’re in this industry, it must be devastating. There are many beautiful wonders in the Middle East but you’re not going to get too many people wanting to see them while instability, violence and confusion reigns.
- Travel – Travel plans may be disrupted, not just because a trip was planned to one of the countries but due to the fact that for some long trips, planes have to stop to refuel. It may be that these routine stops can no longer be performed because the airports aren’t safe, the landing costs go through the roof or that the lack of security measures (or stability) in place will keep airlines from landing in many location.
- Crisis Mgmt – Doing nothing won’t create a peaceful atmosphere. On the other side, going to far isn’t going to help the situation either. Just look at the various policy and security forces involved. The more violent they become the more harm and anger is generated. Those managing the crisis think that by ‘putting the hammer down’ will get things under control. Well, that doesn’t work in today’s world with the internet – even when the ‘net’ isn’t available – will get information to others much quicker than…oh, let’s say, when I was a young one. 😉 There is allot of PR work here too but it’s got to managed properly for people to get the right message. Guns and violence – on any side – won’t get the right point across. When you’re organization has a crisis, do you fight back and point the finger of blame, which ultimately escalates the situation or do you manage it calmly and responsibly? Do you listen to what is being asked and what needs to be done?
The changes occurring in the Middle East are changing things around the world. These aren’t just public demonstrations, they are incidents, crises and disasters that are having a ripple effect around the world. As corporations, we need to view what these ripples are going to do to us and our operations. We can plan for them when they come out way or we can ignore them and then get hit hard when that ripples hit the shore.
It’s part of our methodology to view current events and learn from them; take what works and what doesn’t and review our own plans and responses. It is also our responsibility to do some proper risk management and understand what might happen to our operations – both upstream and downstream – if any of the links in our supply chain come undone. For some good references on Supply Chain Management, suggest reading Jan Husdal’s site (www.husdal.com).
We need to make sure our corporations are resilient in the face of adversity, which considering the changing events, could mean we are going to be affected. For some good articles on resiliency, I suggest reading Ken Simpson’s blog Contemplating (http://en.gravatar.com/kensimpson). And let’s face it, with oil prices going up at the pump, we already are feeling it. How long before our employers, our corporations and our friends and family state they are being directly impacted now? It won’t be too long I’m sure – if things continue the way they are going (FYI – It could all end tomorrow with no more situations but I highly doubt it for now.)
The 2012 prophesies say that change is going to come and that certainly is happening. With change comes our ability to review our plans to address new and potential threats with updated responses and preparedness measures. The people of the Middle East are going to learn allot about themselves in the coming times but so can we as BCM/ERM/DR professionals. Let’s not lose this opportunity to learn and address situations we only used to talk about but are now experiencing.
“Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility” and “Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”
by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3