PlanB Consulting

The extra 1% of Business Continuity

This week, I thought for this week’s bulletin we should celebrate our country’s success at the Olympics, and see if there is anything we can learn from it.

Often as a fan of British sport, and especially Scottish sport, we have the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and we seemingly do well, and then fail at the last moment. What a joy it was in the Olympics to see even when we were behind, as in many cycling races, the likelihood was our rider would fly past the opposition at the last second and win the race. 

I thought for this week’s bulletin we should celebrate our country’s success at the Olympics, and see if there is anything we can learn from it. I have to also mention in passing, and I may do a bulletin next week on it, the Italian earthquake – one of the things I noticed was the speed of the Italian response. If you see a whole load of organised people trying to dig people out of the rubble in flip-flops, shorts and no PPE then you know that there is no government support and people are fending for themselves. Within hours you could see professional rescuers in their hard hats, uniforms and with specialist equipment such as dogs and heavy lifting equipment. There is a British stereotype view that Italians are disorganised but in terms of civil defence and emergency response, they are anything but!

Back to the Olympics; is there anything we can learn from our Olympic success which can have an input into our management of business continuity?

  • I think the first biggest thing we can learn is that continuous improvement and small incremental changes add up to medal winning performances. If you look at the cycling team, they started off with good cyclists, but everything is geared around getting that one percentage extra performance – lots of 1% add up to better performance. This has ranged from their kit (I am sure that wearing the white glove we saw them all wear made a little difference to performance), to their nutrition and training regimes. All have been maximised to give peak performance and gives them the edge to win on the day.
  • Our business continuity plans and performance is a little different in that when we don’t know when our incident is going to happen so we cannot ensure we are ready to respond on a particular day. What I think we can do, and learn from the Olympics, is continuous improvement will make sure that we are ready to respond to an incident.
  • Updating plans, running exercises and training all contribute to our organisations readiness and will ensure that year on year our business continuity response improves. Like an athlete, if we do forget to train then our ability to perform goes backwards. This is the same for business continuity; if we have major change in our organisation, and nobody wants you to run an exercise, or carry out the training that you need to persuade the organisation to keep to your programme, your business continuity ability as an organisation will go backwards. We must also remember at times of changes, our organisations are probably most vulnerable and more likely to have an incident.
  • As we don’t often have a chance to implement our business continuity plans we must be careful that we don’t lull ourselves into a false sense of security of our level of preparation. In the Olympics every four years their performance is tested to see if all the work brings success. There could be a lot longer between our implementation of plans and so we need to make sure that they would really work on the day. This is why we should consider how we verify our level of response so you might want to consider use of external audits, external verified exercises or internal review of you plans and business continuity provision. As business continuity manager you want to make sure that your team and plans are ready to respond on the day!

Perhaps the old army adage here works “Train hard, fight easy”.

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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