Great Business Continuity Exercises Promote Improvisation in Real Incidents

An article in InformationWeek entitled “Hurricane Sandy: Disaster Recovery Improv Tales” describes events that occurred during the hurricane which forced business continuity professionals to come up with solutions to unexpected problems. It concludes “On the whole, the disaster plan worked as expected and the SunGard facilities continued operating continuously. But afterward, no one claimed that the plan had foreseen every challenge or didn’t require a little improvisation along the way.”

I would argue that the plan cannot possibly foresee every challenge and was not meant to. By creating and exercising a business continuity plan, your organization prepares responders, prepares your people, to more confidently overcome these challenges. If your organization is using the incident management system, these responders will also have a crisis-tested governance and resource management capability.

Exercising, as the most active and engaging aspect of the program, provides the best opportunity to strengthen your people’s abilities to adapt to quickly changing circumstances. While you should never test the players at an exercise, you can prompt them with increasingly difficult problems that push them out of their comfort zone.

Some ways to prompt creativity during an exercise:

  • Include injects where key equipment malfunctions
  • Remove key personal during the exercise
  • Have the facilitator introduce “roadblocks” when players attempt to use the most logical solution to a problem
  • Add time sensitive problems where a swift solution is needed
  • Simulate panicked responses from fictional characters outside the organization
  • Include disruptions in the supply chain – fuel supply was an issue for many during Sandy
  • Review your risk assessment to bring out outlying risks that may be overlooked

Exercise your plans well and regularly!



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