Developing Business Continuty Exercises

In developing exercises, PlanB Consulting follows a six stage process. These stages are outlined in Figure 1 below.
The principles laid out in this document apply to all exercises. The details, the amount of planning and PlanB Consulting’s input will depend on the complexity of the exercise and the client’s requirements.


Stage 1 – Commissioning

At the commissioning stage PlanB Consulting works with the client to ensure that the exercise meets their requirements.

Key questions to be asked at the commissioning stage are:

Commissioninga. Sponsor – Who is sponsoring the exercise?

b. Aim – What is the aim of the exercise?

c. Objectives – What are the objectives of the exercise? Are there any standards or regulatory requirements the exercise needs to meet?

d. Who – Which team or members of staff will be taking part in the exercise? Will any external agencies take part? Will members of the organisation be available to help in the planning of the exercise?

e. How – How should the exercise be run and what type of exercise is the most appropriate to meet the agreed aims and objectives? Should the exercise be a desk check, plan walkthrough, simulation or a full live exercise? Would the client like simulated media players to take part and would they like to play simulated social media?

f. What – What are the outputs of the exercise?

g. Where – Where will the exercise take place?

h. When – When can the exercise take place, and what are the key milestones and dates for exercise preparation?
For PlanB Consulting, work spent on the commissioning stage is key as this ensures that the exercise meets the needs of the client. At the end of this stage the exercise outline is agreed and signed off by the sponsor

For PlanB Consulting, work spent on the commissioning stage is key as this ensures that the exercise meets the needs of the client. At the end of this stage the exercise outline is agreed and signed off by the sponsor


Stage 2 – Planning

This is where the detailed planning of the exercise takes place. During this stage PlanB Consulting will:

a. Work with the client to set up an Exercise Planning Team and a project plan for the delivery of this part of the exercise.

b. Develop the aims and objectives of the exercise alongside the client, ensuring they are ‘SMARTER ‘ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, Evaluated, and Reviewed). Develop evaluation criteria for the exercise to ensure that the aims and objectives have been met. An example of a SMARTER objective and how they help frame the exercise can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2

No. Objectives Success Criteria Demonstration Evaluation Method

No. Objectives Success Criteria Demonstration Evaluation Method
1. Familiarise those nominated as members of recovery teams with their role, responsibilities and how an incident would be coordinated People nominated into the roles within the plan Each exercise player allocated one of the roles in the plan Done in the facilitator sheet
2. Conduct an exercise with the aim of practising staff in their roles and to help in their understanding of the plan Use the procedures within the plan Use the plan throughout the exercise Done in the facilitator sheet
3. Validate the plan and identify any areas where the plan is lacking A list from the facilitators of areas of improvement Done at the wash-up Done at the wash-up
4. Confirm that the necessary people and skills sets are represented in the teams The team has the right skills and aptitude to be able to respond to the incident Deal with the incident in a calm manner and solve the problem posed by the scenario Done in the facilitator sheet
5. To make members of the team aware of the recovery strategies of the organisation and some of their limitations They use the strategies as laid out in the plan Refer to the plan section during the exercise Done in the facilitator sheet
6. To identify interdependencies between the different parts of the organisation They refer to the dependencies section in the plan and take these into account in their planning Refer to the plan section during the exercise Done in the facilitator sheet
7. To make sure those taking part in the exercise are aware how their part of the plan fits into the wider organisation’s response and where support and coordination can be found They use the Major Incident Strategy Team (MIST) and Coordination Team (CT) terminology and understand their role Refer to the MIST and CT during the exercise Done in the facilitator sheet
8. Make recommendations for the improvements of the plans and identify learning points from the exercise A comprehensive report completed after the exercise has taken place Report produced Reviewed by a senior manager

c. Draft and own the exercise planning document.

d. Agree which members of staff will take part in the exercise.

e. Agree which external agencies will take part in the exercise and what roles they will play (if appropriate).

f. Develop a scenario for the exercise to ensure that its aims and objectives are met. The client may need to provide specific information, or an expert on the organisation, to help develop an appropriate scenario.

g. PlanB Consulting, working with the client, will develop a main events list (MEL) and injects to help drive the exercise (depending on the type of exercise). The type and complexity of these depend on the aims of the exercise. It is important that these injects are realistic and tailored to the aims of the exercise and that they are appropriate to the level of the team being exercised. An example of a MEL is in Figure 3.

Figure 3
These are taken from the ScoRDS (Scottish Resilience Service) exercise planning document

Click to view larger image

h. As part of the scenario, PlanB Consulting may develop one or two ‘TV news clips‘ to help participants understand the scenario they are dealing with.

i. PlanB Consulting may prepare a brief to go out to all participating staff and agencies, giving details of the exercise, what preparation they should do in advance and what is required of them on the day.

j. Prior to the exercise, all those helping to run the exercise will be briefed to ensure that they fully understand their roles.


Stage 3 – Delivery

a. On the day of the exercise, PlanB Consulting will provide an Exercise Director, who will ensure that the aims of the exercise are being met and that players obtain maximum benefit from the day.

b. PlanB Consulting may provide an Exercise Cell, who will input the injects to the exercise players, as per the main events list. This role will depend on the type of exercise requested.

c. PlanB Consulting will provide evaluation criteria for umpires to assess players, which will tie in with the aims and objectives of the exercise.


Stage 4 – Debriefing

a. As soon as the exercise is finished a ‘hot debrief’ will be conducted with written feedback forms being completed by all players, umpires and observers. These will feed into the post-exercise report.

b. Debriefing may be conducted using the ‘Structured Debriefing’ technique, a short and simple technique of debriefing complex exercises.

c. ‘Cold’ de-brief may be conducted, if required, a few days after the exercise.

d. A feedback form will be developed and filled in by all participants at the end of the exercise. Where there are large numbers of participants in the exercise the feedback form may be used to by players to write down their learning points.


Stage 5 – Reporting

a. A post-exercise report will be developed; the recommendations and the responsibility for carrying them out to be agreed by PlanB Consulting and the client prior to finalisation.


Stage 6 – Follow-up

a. Presentation of post-exercise report and recommendations (if required). The exercise report will be in a format to allow for the easy follow-up of the actions in the post-exercise report.