Efficient, real-world enterprise continuity administration ideas: half two

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Details Published: Friday, February 12, 2021 10:27 AM

Following on from his previous article on Continuity Central, Andy Osborne shares more business continuity advice with the 101 tips found in his new book, Practical Business Continuity Management 2. Here he chooses his three favorite tips from the book …

Mind your language

It is fair to say that business continuity practitioners live in a slightly different world than most “normal” business people. It’s a world full of threats, impacts, and recovery goals. of incidents and interruptions, crises and disasters; of backups and restores, as well as contingencies and workarounds; of recovery strategies and teams and plans. And when someone lives somewhere for a long time, it is only natural to learn something from the local slang. That’s all well and good when we talk to other locals who understand.

However, there may be a tendency to assume that the rest of the world speaks the same language. And the fact of the matter is, a lot of “normal” business people are not particularly fond of business continuity speak. So a better approach might be to avoid this entirely and use language and terminology that the entire company actually understands.

For example, if the audience isn’t thrilled by words like “business impact” or “recovery time goal” why not just talk about what is critical to the success of their part of the business, what it depends on to deliver and how long could you be without it before it really started to hurt? If business continuity isn’t working particularly well, then you can try not to use these two words in the same sentence – or not at all. And since they likely have more than enough of their own acronyms, abbreviations, and catchphrases of their own to keep them amused (or confused), they may well appreciate not hearing from us.

Ultimately, it is far more important that the people who get our attention understand and engage with what we are about than that we are valuable in terms of our technical jargon, no matter how much we want to use it.

Perfume the pig!

Anyone can create a business continuity plan. Indeed, this is the easy piece. And it’s very easy to make the business continuity plan look very compelling. Names and contact details, a few checklists, and a bit of blurb to begin with about how seriously we take business continuity in our organization can work wonders.

But it’s also very easy to write a business continuity plan with no substance. One that basically says, “We’re going to get some key people together at that time and catch up if we move on”! There are any number of plans that say this in principle.

But what about the underlying strategy and solutions? What is in place to ensure we can actually achieve our goals in case we need to call our plans for real?

The plan is one thing, but the strategy and solutions (not to mention the tests and exercises and the awareness and education and ongoing review and maintenance) that turn a plan into a skill are quite another.

You can make the plan look as pretty as you like, but if the underlying strategy and solutions or assumptions are flawed, this is just a cosmetic exercise.

As a former colleague of the author, a seasoned business continuity practitioner liked to say, with an interesting twist, “It doesn’t matter how much perfume you give a pig, at the end of the day it’s still a pig! ‘

The glory seven

The theory is that the ideal size for a team or workgroup is seven people. In addition, the group will tend to split up into smaller groups – a phenomenon that can be observed anywhere where more than seven friends, co-workers or teammates gather, be it in a social or a professional situation.

It has also been said that in a meeting or working group, every additional member over seven reduces the likelihood of making good, quick, and actionable decisions by ten percent. Once you’ve met 16 or 17 people, the team’s potential for effective decision-making is close to zero.

So it stands to reason that a crisis or incident management team with more than seven members is likely to be less effective from a decision-making perspective than one with seven or fewer members. It therefore makes sense to limit the membership in such a team or at least the central decision-making element.

However, this does not mean that other key people should be ignored. Be sure to include subject matter experts or other interested parties in meetings to disseminate information or generate discussion or feedback. However, when it comes to the more gnarled decision-making issue – especially in a crisis situation where critical decisions may need to be made quickly – seven might be the magic number.

Maybe there is a reason the Magnificent Seven got their name. The average eight or the ineffective elf doesn’t quite sound the same!

The author

Andy Osborne is Consultancy Director (Business Continuity, Risk and Crisis Management) at Acumen. His new book “Practical Business Continuity Management 2” is now available on Amazon as a print or Kindle version.