Four reasons business continuity plans fail

DismayAs long as you’ve got the right intentions and a well thought-out execution strategy, implementing a business continuity plan will be a walk in the park… Right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Often the smartest professionals prepare a perfect program, but for unforeseen reasons the outcome is less than ideal.

Why does this happen?

Not fully understanding your corporate culture

Your corporate culture is the sum of the psychology, collective beliefs, attitudes, values and processes that give your organization its personality. And when it’s time to start developing a business continuity program, many people make the mistake of focusing on their plans as the end result. However, experience shows that it’s better to take the time to fully understand your culture, and then apply that understanding to your program.

In order to put a solid business continuity toolbox together, you need to understand what is important to your company and map your program accordingly. The most successful implementations start at the beginning, by defining corporate culture.

Misunderstanding what makes executives want to get involved

A business continuity plan can live or die based on the strength of its executive support, so it goes without saying you’ll need at least one of them to become a champion for your program.

However, it’s important to remember that executives tend to care more about strategic initiatives than tactical issues: focusing on growth in revenues and profitability, increasing shareholder values, protecting brands, and similar topics.

That means your champion will likely need to be shown how business continuity is strategic and can give your organization a competitive advantage. Buzzwords like risk assessments, BIA, resilience, or RPO may not mean much to executives. To really gain participation from the C-suite, you must frame issues in a way that touches on the key initiatives that are important to them, such as keeping the company viable with a strong brand and trustworthy reputation.

Not measuring your program against others

Putting a program in place is the first step. When that’s done, though, your program must regularly adjust to changes in the organization.

You can measure the health and wellness of your program against external metrics such as standards, maturity models and other defined best practices.

Remind those in charge that if your business doesn’t align to standard metrics today, sooner or later some organization or another will require it of you.

The right approach to measurement requires finding the balance that works for your organization, using an existing maturity model or standards coupled with best practices as guides.

Relying too much on methodology

Methodology offers a great resource to guide business continuity professionals through program implementation and ongoing management, but in many organizations it becomes a rigid guideline that often does not match company culture. Forcing compliance to methodology can lead to decreased executive support and lower enthusiasm from those in business areas involved in the program.

Your ultimate goal is to make sure that you’ve designed a program that use can use to creatively solve problems in a time of crisis. A paper plan is great, but when the heat is on, people are more likely to rely on their internal resources (based on your plan, of course) to guide and direct.

The right approach means acknowledging your culture and realizing that not everyone needs the same structure. Cover the essentials and standards as a guideline where it makes sense to do so, but remember that developing an overly detailed, one-size-fits-all plan or allowing tools to drive your plan is a recipe for failure.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but don’t make ones you don’t have to

As every business continuity professional knows, there are two types of implementations: those that meet expectations and those that fall short. Both scenarios have lessons to teach us, but by avoiding these four common mistakes, you’ll have a better chance of success.

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