Role Players

Business Continuity Exercise Case Study

PlanB Consulting carried out one of their largest ever on-site exercises since their establishment in 2007. This exercise was carried out on behalf of TNT’s parcel division, TNT Express. After 3 long and hard months planning ‘Exercise Piccadilly 2’ it was finally completed, on the 20th of July 2012. In total, there were 15 ‘players’ as part of the Tactical Team, as well as 8 ‘Role-players’ and 3 ‘Exercise Staff’. The purpose of this exercise was to develop the Tactical plan in order to ensure that the correct people were allotted a space on the Tactical Team, as well as to develop actions and decisions which would be required from the team if an incident was to occur resulting in the closure of their key hubs.

Prior to Piccadilly 2, Charlie travelled to Kingsbury in order to prepare the Exercise with TNT’s own Business Continuity Manager (BCM), Garry Dulson and assistant BCM Sarah Keeling. The preparation entailed discussion of the exercise, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each participant. For example, it was decided that there would be additional members of the Administration team as this would ensure that all actions and discussions were accurately logged, conference calls would be arranged and members of the Tactical Team’s information regularly updated. This is critical to managing an incident effectively as it is imperative that the Admin team collate the correct information as well as send out accurate and up to date information to other members of the Tactical Team.

Exercise Piccadilly was carried out between the hours of 09.00-15.30. The exercise commenced with Garry Dulson discussing the Kingsbury plan before Charlie briefly touched upon the Tactical plan

Pondering the next actionand delivered some Incident Management training. The topic for discussion here was how to manage an incident as well as how to use a number of incident management tools. After this was completed the groups were split up – the Tactical Team were kept in the Tactical Team room whilst the role-players set-up elsewhere. The job of the role-players was to call members of the Tactical Team and place them under the sort of pressure that they would be expected to deal with during a real life incident. An example of the sort of call the Tactical Team received is;

“A number of irate customers have called regarding failed premiums. The information we have to give out is sketchy, and they are demanding answers and credits. What should we do?”

Team leader briefs the teamThis type of call placed the Customer Services element of the Tactical Team under a great deal of pressure as they were required to solve the problem at short notice, assess whether the information that customers were receiving was accurate and up to date. A number of these calls were happening simultaneously which meant that the team had to communicate effectively in order to ensure that they were all putting out the same message and not sending out conflicting reports. For this to be successful the Team Leader had to show great leadership skills and make certain that all members were doing their job correctly. This proved to be the case as we found out after the exercise when we conducted the Structured Debrief, which is discussed in greater depth below.

Important to keep the team fedAfter the exercise was completed, PlanB Consulting conducted a ‘Structured Debrief’ of the day’s event. The purpose of Structured Debriefing is for learning, through reflection, people’s view on the exercise. This was achieved by allowing each member of Tactical Team to state two points which they thought went well during Exercise Piccadilly 2, and two things that they thought went badly during the day’s events. If a Structured Debrief is conducted correctly it will allow you to gather accurate information on the Exercise that has been conducted as well as enable you to develop ideas for the future, e.g. which area of your plan requires most work done.

My overall view of Exercise Piccadilly 2 was that it was very well prepared and this was proven by the ‘buy-in’ shown by TNT, all members stated their enjoyment and satisfaction after partaking in this exercise. In terms of performance – the response to the incident was excellent and the team members all communicated well with each other and created a number of solutions to the problems posed. In particular, the Tactical Team Leader performed superbly, he was very clear with what he expected from the team and he managed them and his time, very well. In addition, he regularly provided updated information and ensured that his team were all doing their roles correctly. To conclude, I think that Exercise Piccadilly 2 was an overwhelming success and that it showed that TNT is in a strong position with regards to Business Continuity. However, the exercise also showed a few flaws in their plan which need rectified before they can consider themselves to be fully resilient.

Carrying out the agreed actionsAs mentioned above, this exercise was very well received by those who participated. To support this view I have attached a few feedback comments which can be seen below:

‘Excellent exercise, agenda was very easy to follow and well structured.’

‘The opportunity to practice will be invaluable and will improve our resilience.’

‘The exercise provided a challenging environment but was thoroughly enjoyable.’

‘The Tactical Team’s knowledge of each member’s individual roles and responsibilities was excellent.’

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