The Misconceptions of Business Continuity Planning

Last week I had the privilege of leading a workshop in partnership with the Huntsville-Madison Chamber of Commerce to discuss Business Continuity Planning with leaders in our area. The Covid-19 Pandemic caught many organizations unprepared and they have struggled through how to keep their business going during this time.  One reason for the lack of preparedness is misconceptions organizations have regarding Business Continuity Planning. 

Misconception #1: My organization doesn’t have the time to create a Business Continuity Plan. And besides, we’ll never need it. 

Yes, Business Continuity Planning takes time. It’s not something you can create overnight. And it takes input from multiple sources within your organization and possibly even outside of your organization. A successful Business Continuity Plan is designed by a team, not an individual. And even once designed, it requires regular review and updates. But the time you spend up front to create a solid Business Continuity Plan will save you time should you ever need to respond to a large-scale emergency. It will also ensure that you’re able to get your organization back up and running quickly and efficiently and minimize the impact to your employees & their families, clients, vendors, and your revenue. 

I think it’s safe to say that many organizations now understand and acknowledge that they do have a need for a plan. But they’re scrambling to try and create that plan as they respond to the impact of the pandemic and doing so could be detrimental to the design of the plan.  

Misconception #2: My organization isn’t big enough to need a Business Continuity Plan. 

Regardless of the size of your organization, you need to assess your potential risk due to possible large-scale emergencies and determine how you would need to respond in order to keep your organization afloat and to insure the safety and well-being of your employees, their families, and your customers.

One of my biggest concerns during the pandemic has been small businesses and how they will survive. Many small businesses were required to close their doors and that had a major impact on their revenue and their ability to retain employees. Sadly, some may not survive. Creating a plan to help assess the impact and determine how to respond could be the difference between surviving a large-scale emergency or having to close your doors permanently.  

Misconception #3: Our employees will know what to do in the event of a disaster. 

Employees are trained and prepared to handle small-scale emergencies and can usually do so without much direction. Your system goes down temporarily, your power goes out for the day. But they aren’t trained or prepared to handle large-scale emergencies. They look to leadership to guide them and through that guidance to put them at ease. And leadership needs to be prepared in advance to provide that guidance, to make critical decisions and implement those decisions, to reroute employees to assist with the restoration of critical functionality, and to honestly be the calm in the storm. 

Watching leadership flounder in a time of crisis could be devastating to an organization’s employees, customers, and vendors. It could also have a negative consequence on your organization’s public image and reputation. 

Misconception #4: We’ll just communicate with our employees if the need arises. 

Last summer my father had open-heart surgery which resulted in pneumonia and a second surgery. I remember talking with my mother when he was readmitted to the hospital trying to determine who needed to be notified, who was going to notify them, and what they needed to be told. Neither of our minds was in the right place to be making those decisions at that time (and I’m sure we forgot some people). 

The same goes for organizations. Determining who needs to be notified, who is responsible for notifying them, and what information to share should not be done in the middle of a stressful situation. Plan your communication in advance. By doing so, you can create a checklist of who needs to be informed and when, who will handle that communication, and what needs to be shared. The information you provide to your employees may be quite different from the information you share with customers and vendors. And some notifications may need to be made as soon as possible, while some can be delayed. By creating a list in advance and drafting scripts for each group, you can efficiently get that communication out and be sure that all necessary parties receive notification. 

Misconception #5: We have insurance policies to cover us. 

Most insurance policies will cover physical damage, many will not cover, or fully cover lost revenue. Review your insurance policies and determine if you need to adjust limits on a regular basis. In addition, your organization may want to consider adding Business Interruption Coverage. 

While these policies can certainly help in a time of need, none of these insurance policies are going to get your organization back up and running. They may provide financial assistance to do so, but it is up to your organization to respond to and recover from an emergency. 

Designing and implementing a Business Continuity Plan is no small feat, but if the Covid-19 Pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected can happen and we need to be prepared for if and when it does. Is your organization prepared? 

 

Here are some additional resources on Business Continuity Planning: 

Preparing for the Worst: Business Continuity Planning

Defeating the Kobayashi Maru, the No-Win Situation 

4 Keys to Leading Through Crisis

Creating a Business Continuity Plan Webinar & Worksheets

Lorrie Coffey

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