PlanB Consulting

Send in Eeyore!

Last month, the British Chancellor, George Osborne announced his spending review of Government spending in 2015-16. He had hoped to further reduce the deficit by economy growing and by collecting more taxes but instead has announced a further £11.5bn cut in government spending. Political commentators have been saying the Chancellor “didn’t think” when he took up office that three years on he would still be trying to reduce the budget deficit. I don’t think he anticipated the possibility of the downturn being this bad, and that he’d have to change his plans.

One of the things I have observed during business continuity exercises is that those responding always think the best and rarely anticipate what could go wrong. One of my favourite exercise scenarios is the discovery of a World War II bomb close to building where a company exercise is taking place. The scenario gives  denial of access to the building for up to a week, plus the risk of the bomb exploding thus destroying the building.

On over 50% of the exercises I have run, I have had to prompt the organisation to consider the risk of the bomb going off and subsequent destruction of the building. I think in the end, most of us are naturally optimistic and by nature we think things are going to be ok. I think for business continuity people this can be dangerous.

As part of our incident response we need to always be thinking through our plans. What are the risks associated with recovery? Also, what else could go wrong? This brings us on to Eeyore.

Eeyore is the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories who has been characterised as being pessimistic, gloomy, and depressed. In your incident response plan you should designate one of the members of your incident team to play Eeyore. Their role throughout the incident is to look at the risks to the recovery and also what else could possibly go wrong. Once you start to understand what could go wrong or “what you do not want to happen” can you truly attempt to anticipate scenarios, solutions and outcomes.

To ensure we identify the risks that could derail our recovery we should including the following within our business continuity plans.

  1. Assign someone the Eeyore role and make sure at all times they identify risks and challenge solutions.
  2. Include within the Incident Team agenda an item to look at risks to the recovery and identify mitigation measures to prevent them from occurring.
  3. Keep a risk register for the incident you are responding to and make sure it is updated.
  4. Be aware in advance of the risks, which could affect your organisation in order to ensure that a second risk does not materialise, while you are responding to the first one.
  5. Be aware of your risk assumptions. Most incidents have a number of warning events which precede them and often they are ignored and only recognised in the investigation following an incident. This is usually because there is “group think” and usually a management or systemic failure to recognise them. If you properly understand your operations and the risks associated with them, you should be able to identify the warning events before a major incident takes place.

In Business Continuity we must always be pessimists as we know we are always one step away from a disaster, but we must manage our business continuity with the enthusiasm of Tigger!

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

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