When an unexpected event interrupts the flow of your business, the results can be devastating. In fact, analysts from the Gartner consulting group estimate that 40 percent of businesses experiencing some form of disaster go out of business within five years. But it doesn't have to be that way. A little planning can go a long way.
Therefore, the question remains: Do you have a plan for what happens if you get hit by a bus?
Okay, the bus analogy aside, "stuff" does happen, and when it does, business as usual is no longer possible. Do you have a plan? According to Jo Ann Bujarski of The Business Process Dr, "Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is necessary for any business, no matter the size."
Bujarski says each business has its own set of concerns and weaknesses, so no two plans are going to be the same, but planning is still necessary.
One might argue that no plan can account for every possible unforeseen event. That someone would be correct, but it doesn't mean we should ignore planning.
In their book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath point out that the US military is the king of all organizations when it comes to planning, and yet a common saying in the military is "No plan survives contact with the enemy." Then there's the Dwight Eisenhower quote: "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
The key point? It's the act of planning that prepares people for success in the face of unexpected troubles. It stimulates possibility thinking and focuses our minds on the end goal and finding ways to win.
For this reason, I agree with Bujarski that creating a BCP is an excellent thing to do. With planning, leaders and leadership teams look for ways to keep a business operating smoothly. They gain insights into what can be done to deal with various contingencies, and they sharpen their focus on the expected end result.
A Few Common Planning Problems – and Cures
Many companies are facing a massive "brain drain" resulting from the upcoming wave of retiring baby boomers. These companies will experience serious setbacks if nothing is done to capture the vast amounts of knowledge that generation holds.
Surprisingly, some companies are bringing this problem on themselves. When a Fortune 500 company offered early retirement as a way to cut costs, a large number of people took advantage of attractive separation packages.
Some people warned senior management about all the knowledge they were letting walk out the door, but these warnings were waved off as much ado about nothing.
An employee from that company recently told me the reduction in force and the accompanying brain drain placed excessive workloads on younger, less-knowledgeable employees.
"Because those people don't have background knowledge on the projects assigned to them, frustration levels are sky high and morale is in the toilet."
One cure for capturing the knowledge of retiring workers is assigning people the job of collecting it. One of my clients was smart enough to realize that 50 percent of its workforce would be retiring in the next five years, and they didn't want all that knowledge just walking out the door.
To collect and organize that wealth of knowledge, the company put several dozen employees through a train-the-trainer program. These people worked alongside seasoned professionals, learned the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and then assembled training manuals for each process and procedure in the plant.
Curing Hiccups in Leadership Ranks
Smaller companies and leadership teams are not immune. They can face enormous problems if a key individual leaves or becomes incapacitated. One cure? Well-organized mentoring and coaching relationships.
By identifying up-and-coming rising stars and pairing them with key leaders to learn the ropes, companies not only have people prepared to step up in case of an emergency, but they also get better input and teamwork along the way.
There's a chance that people receiving such training could leave, but I believe the benefits far outweigh the potential loss.
The Possible Problems are Many
In reality, dozens of factors need to be considered, including lawsuits, fires, flooding, utility interruptions, labor strikes, transportation issues, data loss, security breaches, server failures, health epidemics, terrorism, bad press due to a high profile or a white collar crime, earthquakes, and more. The list goes on. Any natural or man-made disaster can negatively impact your business.
As Bujarski says, such planning "used to be called Disaster Recovery Planning, but now we know planning should be done for anything that could cause your business to function at less than optimum."
To repeat the quote from Eisenhower, "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
Do you have a plan for staying resilient? I ask again: What happens if you get hit by a bus?