The Human Factor: Optimizing Yourself and Your Business Continuity Team

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The human factor in business continuity is one of the most important and also one of the most overlooked keys to success in creating an effective business continuity management (BCM) program. In today’s post, we’ll discuss what you as a BCM leader can do to make sure you and your BCM team possess the personal and professional qualities needed to succeed in the vital task of making sure your organization is resilient and protected.

Join Michael Herrera for A High-Performance BCM Program Starts with You at DRJ Spring World in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

We talk a lot about technology and resources in business continuity, but you want to know something? It’s the human factor that determines whether a BC program thrives or flounders. We’ve seen rich programs that are a mess and ones run on a shoestring that are top-notch. Success is not up to how well-funded your program is, it’s up to you.

At first glance, being a good manager and building a good team might seem as mysterious as witchcraft. It’s not really that mysterious. It can be broken down, understood, and then mastered like anything else.

We’ll start with looking at you as a manager, then we’ll move on to discussing how you can assemble a top-flight team.

 

TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR

The role of BCM leader is darn challenging. Have you ever thought about the qualities it takes to do it well? Have you thought about whether you have them?

Being a good BC manager takes a strong social profile because a BC leader has to be persuasive, decisive, good in a crisis, confident in dealing with executives, a good presenter, and negotiator, and empathetic in working with subordinates.

It also takes solid technical knowledge and ability (of BC standards and best practices, for example) and deep knowledge of the industry and organization (because the BCM boss needs to know who the key players are at the company and how to get things done there).

Not many people combine all these qualities. Do you?

Here are two things I see a lot: 1) many BCM managers are sound on the technical side but weak on the leadership and managerial side, and 2) many overestimate their overall level of expertise.

Why does all this matter? Because over and over again we find that the effectiveness of enterprise BC programs depends not on the quantity of resources the program has at its disposal but the quality of its leadership. In other words, it depends on you. (I hope you like pressure.)

I encourage you to take a look in the mirror. Make a list of the key attributes needed for success as a BCM manager (for ideas of what qualities should go on the list, see above and also the next section) and evaluate yourself on each them.

Most likely you are going to discover one of two things:

  1. Your personality is not really a great fit for the BC leadership role and you might be happier and more effective in another position. Perhaps it’s time for you to start scoping out how you might transition into a new role.
  2. You’re actually a pretty good fit for the BCM manager role but you’re definitely better at some parts of it than others. That’s great. Now your mission should be shoring up your weak points.

How do you shore up your personal and professional weaknesses as a BC leader? There are two ways:

  1. Educate and develop yourself to raise your game in areas where you have gaps in your ability (focus on 3 to 5 key actions you can take over the next six to 12 months).
  2. Delegate responsibility for your weak areas to people who are skilled in those tasks (or at least seek advice from those people).

The basic idea is, you capitalize on your strengths and you also manage your weaknesses.

 

SHAPING YOUR SQUAD

Now it’s time to shape your BC squad, whether that means bringing in new people or maximizing the efficiency of your current staff.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the human factor in business continuity and shaping your business continuity team:

  1. Like you, your staff members are going to have strengths and weaknesses in terms of their professional skills and personal qualities.
  2. It’s your business to get a grasp on what these are for everyone who works for you.
  3. Your job as a manager is to think about what combination of skillsets your team needs to succeed.
  4. You should gradually work toward the best team you can for carrying out critical the roles.
  5. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your personnel problems can be solved by bringing in more people. What you need are the right people with the right skillsets.

A lot of managers have the wrong idea (or no idea at all) about what makes a strong, well-balanced BCM team. The basic concept is easy—it’s just like building a professional baseball team. If you were doing that, you would know you needed pitchers (starters, relievers), infielders (specialists for each position), outfielders (ditto), and, of course, hitters. You would go out and look for players who are good at each role.

Building a BCM team is similar. The main difference is, the roles in BCM aren’t cut and dry. What you need in BCM are certain skillsets and qualities.

A common mistake we see is, managers, hire new BCM practitioners with the idea of finding something for them to do once they’re onboard. If you did this as a baseball manager, you might end up with nine first basemen. No good baseball manager would ever do this and no BCM leader should either.

What you need to do is: assess your needs, assess your people, then match the latter to the former.

I talked earlier about the qualities and skill sets that are important for BCM personnel. Let’s get more specific. Here’s a list (taken from my ebook, 10 Keys to a Peak-Performing BCM Program) of the key skill sets that you should look at in assessing your current staff and bringing in new hires. We’ve divided the list into personal and professional skill sets.

 

Business Continuity Team: Personal Skillsets

  • Reactiveness. You want people to be attentive and take matters with due seriousness, but not to the point where they overreact or “freak out.”
  • Tenacity. It is important to have people on your team who remain productive and determined when the going gets tough.
  • Drive. Does the person take the initiative and make things happen?
  • Leadership. Most good leaders have two key qualities: they make it their business to know the strengths and weaknesses of the members of their team, then in interacting with team members individually, they adapt their style to the personality of each individual.
  • Conscientiousness. Does the person keep the interests of the team and organization at the front of their minds?
  • Extraversion. Is the person comfortable with making and maintaining connections with a variety of people throughout the organization? Business continuity planning is a social activity.
  • Intellectual Openness. Is the person open to trying new ideas, thoughts, or approaches? In a field where one of the few constants is change—in technology, processes, and finally, personnel—the quality of intellectual openness is key.

Business Continuity Team: Professional Skillsets

  • Company Knowledge. Do they have a keen knowledge of the organization, including its structure, management, mission, and strategy? Do they have a sound understanding of the goods or services it produces?
  • BCM Methodology. Do they have a sound understanding of current BCM methodology, its components, and how they should be applied? Do they have a working knowledge of industry standards and how they apply to the organization?
  • Program Administration. Do they understand the key components of program administration (such as oversight, governance, policy, and standards) and how these should be applied and implemented?
  • Crisis Management. Do they understand the key components of crisis management (team, plan, mock disasters, emergency notification system, etc.) and how these should be implemented to ensure a swift, effective response in the event of a disruption?
  • Business and Disaster Recovery. Do they understand the key components of business recovery (plan development, recovery strategies, testing, maintenance, etc.) and how these should be applied to ensure a timely response?

It can help to quantify everyone’s skillsets. One way to do this is to make a spreadsheet, list your team members on the left, write down the skills you think are important across the top, and then assign each team member a rating of between zero and five for each skill, depending on their willingness and ability to carry out that role. You could then color code the different fields, based on the values you gave. We use red to indicate weakness in that area, yellow to indicate moderate competence, and finally green to show strong ability. This lets you assess the range of everyone’s skills at a glance.

The final step, now that you understand your team, is to make it better. Here are seven ways to do so:

  1. Put the right team members in the right seats.
  2. Identify who needs training.
  3. Remediate weaknesses.
  4. Determine who wants to learn something new.
  5. Use the stronger team members to train the others.
  6. Identify people who need to look elsewhere.
  7. Identify people you can delegate to.

THE HUMAN FACTOR OF BUSINESS CONTINUITY

Technology is sexy but success in business continuity comes down to the human factor. Good BCM managers develop an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.  They either work on getting better in their weak areas or delegate responsibilities to those with an aptitude for them. Good business continuity team builders identify their program’s needs, know their staff, and work toward building a custom-designed roster specifically to fill the needs of their program.

FURTHER READING

We have more information the human factor in business continuity and your BCM team. Check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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