Annual Drills: What a Nonsense!

By Floris Baauw

In many crisis plans or business continuity plans, it is stated that teams should exercise annually. Some organizations do this diligently, either due to a strong intrinsic belief in the importance of regular practice or a good routine. However, there are instances when such exercises become an eccentric motivation, as they might be carried out because the regulator, safety authorities, or adherence to a framework mandates it.


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We encounter many organizations where, in practice, the annual drill is often neglected. During this Business Continuity Awareness Week 2017, we would like to draw attention to this.

The challenge in crisis management within organizations is that you are preparing for situations that you hope will not occur. Let's face it, for some organizations, the likelihood of something going wrong is very small. Herein lies the challenge for a crisis manager or business continuity manager. How do you ensure that your organization remains engaged in this area? An annual crisis drill can certainly help to rekindle awareness of crisis management and business continuity management among employees. However, as the months pass, the focus wanes, and knowledge about crisis management takes a backseat. The learning value of an annual exercise is far from optimal.

Nonetheless, there are several actions that a crisis manager or business continuity manager can take to increase the learning value while adhering to the commitment to practice annually. It may sound resource-intensive or costly, but it is not. The most important thing is to regularly focus on crisis management and business continuity management at different levels within your organization.

Exercises Come in Many Forms and Sizes

There is no need to interactively or grandiosely exercise annually. There are many ways to exercise. You can walk through the crisis or business continuity plan with a team or work together with representatives from different teams to experience the documented procedures or a specific scenario. The discussions in such sessions are as valuable as the experience gained from a full-blown crisis drill. Exercises come in many forms and sizes.


Address Current Crises and Disruptions to Continuity

Send out a quarterly newsletter or post updates on the intranet about crises and disruptions to continuity at similar organizations. Highlight key lessons and considerations for your own organization. For example, discuss recent events such as the global WannaCry ransomware attack. Organize a lunch session or join the executive or management team quarterly to discuss recent changes and developments. Invite a counterpart from a similar organization to share their experiences.

Ensure You Have (More) Ambassadors

Involve groups of employees in updating the plans. This will keep the plans up to date, align them with practical needs, and create ambassadors within your organization.

Leverage Evaluations to the Fullest

Evaluations of crises and incidents often involve the affected teams only. This is a missed opportunity. Share the lessons from crises and incidents widely within the organization, and involve those who played no active role during the crisis. There is no better practical example than an actual incident within your organization.

One annual drill is not enough. Keep the topic on the agenda and explore approaches that suit your organization.

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