DR & BCM Programs: The Right Atmosphere Gives the Right Results

Herb Kelleher once said about employee motivation, “give them wings” and he was right.  Mr. Kelleher was the driving force behind the Southwestern Airlines corporation, which continues to be one of the best run airlines in America, if not one of the best run in the world.  He believed that if you create the right atmosphere for employees, those employees will help build your company into something strong, marketable and profitable; something no CEO can do on their own. 

        This is something that corporate leaders must understand not just in word but in deed; not just in the balance sheet when all is moving well but also when things aren’t going as well – in disasters and crises.  If the right atmosphere is created, the right disaster / emergency response / business continuity program can be created and embedded into the corporations.

        If a corporation wants to increase revenue and increase sales, we make sure that our sales people have the right tools and products available to them.  We ensure that all the feedback they receive from clients – existing and potential clients – are incorporated into products or that existing products are enhanced or developed to meet the changing needs. All done with the aim of increasing sales, revenues, billable hours, product quality (hopefully), the brand name and the share prices.  And if everyone is really lucky, increasing bonuses when performance time rolls around.  That’s the goal anyway and there is nothing wrong with that in mind.  If a company is in business then it must be able to make money and continue to grow or else it will loose to competition and complacency; something no one wants. 

        The atmosphere’s created here drive people to meet their targets and get the right amount – or level – of number on some balance sheet.  If all is positive and on the upward swing, then the atmosphere is great and people have something to strive for.   Now, throw a crisis in the mix or a sudden disaster (Really, are there any other kinds?) and see what happens.  It comes to a crashing halt.  That upward momentum is gone and things begin to slide the other direction.  But this can be addressed proactively to make sure that slip is a short one and one that can be managed so that business isn’t lost. 

        Talking about disasters isn’t really a positive aspect of any business relationship, but it’s a necessary one nonetheless.  That atmosphere created that allows people to seek revenue must also be present for those that might be concerned about the loss of specific equipment, facilities or personnel.  Are they allowed to help bring these things forward, or do they feel they need to sweep these things under the rug and keep quiet?  Probably the latter. 

        Sometimes bringing such things forward and asking questions about a corporations DR/BCM capabilities is seen as confrontational and challenging?  Challenging for who?  If I work for a corporation, I want to know if I’ll still have a job if there is a fire or other crisis.  There’s nothing wrong with providing an organizational culture that allows for these questions to be asked.   Let’s face it, if something does occur the senior levels are looking at their staff to ensure they know what needs to be done so why not allow them to ask and challenge the program; it’s in their own best interest as well as the executives. 

        Corporations need to create an atmosphere where people can ask questions and make challenges to assumptions and actually be allowed to contribute to the BCM/DR program.  There is no point in hiding information away behind some secret executives don’t want people to know because it will come back to haunt the corporation in the end when a disaster does occur.  When a disaster occurs suddenly that secret comes out – whether you want it to or not – and often it’ll cause the wrong response(s) to be implemented.  Or, as soon as it’s discovered (the secret) someone will stand up and say that if they’d known that earlier they would have changed their DR/BCM strategy.  This type of hiding or the selective release of information isn’t beneficial to the contribution and participation of team members; it’s detrimental. 

        When the right atmosphere is created, the right results of the program will be developed and implemented.  It’ll have better buy in – especially those that need to actually implement the plans – and the awareness levels increase exponentially.  The confidence levels increase and the maintenance of plans/processes/team participation increases because people are part of the program, not just told by the program what they should be doing.  Like Herb said, “give them wings” and they will fly.  They’ll take the program farther and better than if they weren’t part of it.  It’s that kind of thinking and atmosphere that made Southwestern Airlines on of the best in the US. 

        What kind of atmosphere do you have in your organization?  Will you be able to fly like Southwestern Airlines or might you sink like a stone…  Time will give you the answer one way or another. 


 “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

Available at www.stone-road.com, www.amazon.com & www.volumesdirect.com


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