7 Habits of a Good Business Continuity Manager

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The word “habit” has a bad reputation, but good habits can be your best friend, whether in your professional life or elsewhere.

What’s more, good habits can be cultivated. If you don’t have them now, maybe you can develop them.

All it takes is a little discipline and determination—and knowing what the best habits are.

To help with that last part, here are my 7 Habits of a Good Business Continuity Manager.

These are the things that high-performing managers do routinely.

If you operate this way already, good for you.

If you don’t operate this way, it’s never too late to start.

Doing so will strengthen your program, protect your organization, and — not least — help you maintain the confidence of your senior leadership and hence your job.

(I mention this last point because I was once on an engagement where, unfortunately, a very nice, intelligent, and hardworking BCM manager was asked to move on. Despite the person’s efforts, the organization’s business continuity program was in disarray. The manager was definitely not following the 7 Habits of a Good Business Continuity Manager. . . . I urge you to learn them, think about them, and adopt them, for the benefit of your organization, your program, and your career.)

  1. Cultivate self-awareness. It seems touchy-feely, but the fact is, you need to know yourself to be a good manager. What are you good at? What are you not good at? And you can’t let important areas slide just because you’re not good at them. You need to work on getting better in those areas and/or find people who can cover them for you. From top to bottom, being a good manager requires that you see clearly and act rationally, and the whole process starts with how you see yourself. Good managers understand themselves. Make sure you do, too. When I see people who are mired in tactics to the neglect of strategy, those people are almost individuals who are lacking in self-awareness.
  2. Bring in people who fill specific needs on your team. Ineffective managers hire people because they like them. Good managers make a habit of only hiring people whose skillsets fit a definite need of the team. Good managers think of their teams as being like a crew in a heist movie. They have a safe-cracker, a computer expert, a master of disguise, and so on. They identify the skillsets they need and find people to fill them. Not so good managers might have three safe-crackers and nobody for the other roles. You have to be rational about what you need and bring in people with those skillsets. If you let irrational factors decide the composition of your team, you’re doomed from the get-go.
  3. Make intelligent use of metrics. I discussed the importance of using metrics in a post a couple of weeks ago called, “You’re Doing It Wrong: BCM Metrics.” Good managers definitely make a habit of using meaningful metrics, which provide a kind of health check over their overall program.
  4. Develop a roadmap. This is another topic we covered recently (“How Your BCM Program Is Like a Cross-Country Bus Journey”). The gist is: good BCM managers make a rational determination about where they want their program to be in a year or two years, then set about working out how to get there. Less effective managers simply drift and react. (Not having a roadmap was part of the reason the manager I mentioned in the beginning was asked to leave.) Metrics and roadmaps work hand in glove. The metrics help you draw the roadmap.
  5. Adopt a service mindset. Good BCM managers develop the habit of thinking of the other departments they engage with as clients. And they think of the BIAs, recovery plans, disaster exercises, management presentations, and other activities they perform as services or products. They endeavor to treat their “clients” with as much consideration as if they were hustling for their business every day, and they work hard to make the services they provide as excellent and consistent as possible. Bad BCM managers are indifferent; good ones are committed to making a difference, by looking at the departments they work with as clients deserving of their very best.
  6. Invest your time and effort in the right areas. Want to know something sad? A lot of dedicated BCM managers who knock themselves out for their organizations still have weak BCM programs. How can it be? Often it’s because they’re focusing their efforts on the wrong areas, usually tactical, ground-level stuff like BIAs, when they should first get the strategic vision sorted out. Good managers make a habit of investing their time and effort in the right areas. See above for ideas on what the right areas are. (Another good area to pay attention to is residual risk: see this recent post for details.)
  7. Focus like a demon on the bottom line: can you recover? Good managers are realists. They don’t confuse effort with results, and they make a habit of focusing like crazy on the bottom line. In our business, of course, the bottom line is: Can you recover? If there was a disruption, could you quickly get things back on track to minimize the impact to the business? The business continuity manager who holds this question as their guiding star, day in and day out, is in all likelihood a pretty capable continuity manager.

If you already practice these seven habits—whatever the wording you use to describe them—then I would bet anything you’re an excellent business continuity manager and that your organization is lucky to have you.

If you don’t already practice them, why not give them a try? Your career, your program, and your organization will all be the better for it.

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