It’s Halloween and monsters are on the prowl, especially in companies’ business continuity plans. In today’s post, we’ll look at two such BCM monsters—the Headless Horseman and the Disaster Zombie—that have the power to destroy your organization’s ability to recover from a business disruption.
Last week on the MHA Consulting blog, Richard Long shared a few true stories of BCM horror.
This got me thinking about what BCM “monsters” I’ve been seeing lately. Two came to mind immediately: the Headless Horseman and the Disaster Zombie. In my opinion, they are the ultimate BCM monster mash.
These evil creatures show up frequently during mock disaster exercises. Recently, I’ve facilitated a few such exercises. As I’ve witnessed, nothing is more likely to ruin an organization’s ability to perform well in them.
The Headless Horseman and the Disaster Zombie can wreak havoc with an organization’s response in a real event if they happen to show up when an incident occurs.
And based on my experience, they almost certainly will show up, unless an organization is cognizant of the risks these monsters pose and takes steps to neutralize them.
The Headless Horseman
When it comes to disaster recovery exercises, the Headless Horseman is not a mythical figure who rides around carrying his head under his arm. Rather, he is a symbol of the common problem of no one being in charge.
The Headless Horseman in the context of BCM exercises is a leadership void. When the Headless Horseman is on the scene, the lines of authority aren’t clear. No one knows who’s running the show. The team’s response to the disaster is headless in the sense that it’s not directed by a guiding authority.
The result is ugly. There’s confusion, anxiety, milling around, finger pointing, duplication of effort, and important tasks that don’t get done.
How do you vanquish the Headless Horseman? Identify a leadership structure ahead of time. Consider the scenarios most likely to affect the organization and identify who should be in charge for each.
For more on how to do this, see “Choosing a Crisis Management Team Leader” (p. 17) in our ebook, “Crisis Management: A Handbook for BCM Professionals” (free download).
The Disaster Zombie
The second monster that commonly ruins organizations’ performance in mock disaster exercises (and real-life incidents) is the Disaster Zombie.
The Disaster Zombie is a truly scary character.
Like all zombies he is mindless, he’s constantly moving but for no good reason, and he has a tendency to eat human brains.
The Disaster Zombie, in the context of mock disaster exercises, is the tendency of people to act without thinking.
I’ve seen it over and over again: in responding to the exercise (or real-life event) people start running here and there doing things without ever stopping to think about the situation strategically.
This is a terrible mistake, one that commonly leads to errors of omission and commission. These errors almost always increase the impact of the incident on the organization.
When the Disaster Zombie is lumbering around your command center (whether real or virtual), the people who are working there lose sight of the big picture. They do things without thinking about the impact of their actions. It’s almost as if an evil monster has eaten their brains, making them incapable of logical thought.
How do you neutralize the Disaster Zombie?
Simple: Have your team sit down, take a deep breath, and eat a pie—or rather APIE.
APIE is an acronym describing a recommended way of responding to disasters that is widely used by fire departments and similar organizations that deal with bad situations day in and day out.
It stands for:
- Assess the situation. Step back and figure out what’s happening. What are the impacts and risks to life safety and the organization?
- Plan your response. Figure out the top five high-level, strategic things that need to be done to ensure life safety, bring the situation under control, and return the business to normal operations.
- Implement your response. Put into effect the steps that have been decided on by delegating them to lower-level people to tactically carry out.
- Evaluate your performance. Convene the group at regular intervals to see how things are going. The frequency of these meetings will likely be high in the beginning and much less as the situation subsides.
And keep repeating the process until the situation is resolved.
Using the APIE system will make your disaster response more methodical, level-headed, efficient, and effective.
Mastering the Monsters
At Halloween, many monsters come out, none scarier, from the point of view of BCM professionals conducting mock disaster exercises, than the Headless Horseman and the Disaster Zombie. The Headless Horseman is a void in leadership. To master this problem, devise a list of the scenarios most likely to affect your organization and choose a leader for each. The Disaster Zombie is the tendency of most corporate disaster response teams to act without thinking. Eliminate it by following the APIE system—assess, plan, implement, and evaluate—cycling through the process until the problem is under control.
For more information on defeating BCM monsters with mock-disaster exercises and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:
- Stay Strong: The Pandemic Is No Time for BCM Pros to Slack Off
- Telephone Train Wreck: Crisis Call Chaos in the Time of COVID-19
- Halloween Edition: True Stories of BCM Horror
- Let’s Get Real: The Limitations of Tabletop Recovery Exercises
- How to Plan a Mock Disaster Exercise
- How to Be a Mock Jock: Advice on Facilitating a Disaster Exercise