Are you able to describe the specific skills and skill levels of each member of your BCM team from a professional and personal perspective? Could you say who on your team has the strongest overall skillset? Do you have a clear idea of who on your staff has the skills to manage a crisis? Do you know whether your team’s performance is lacking or if any of your people are unhappy?
If you think of such high-performing teams as Navy SEAL units or NASCAR pit crews, it’s easy to see that their strength comes from the fact that different members of the team are good at different tasks. Collectively the members cover all the jobs they must perform to excel as a unit. It’s the same with elite firefighters, as I know from my brother, a fire chief at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico.
Having a well-balanced team is not something that comes about by accident. It’s the result of careful planning and training on the part of team leaders. These leaders make it their business to understand the personal and professional skillsets of each member of the team as well as how these mesh together.
Whether your team is changing a set of tires in eight seconds or putting out a launch-pad fire—or devising and implementing a business continuity plan—it must work together seamlessly to ensure a high level of performance. Achieving this starts with assessing the professional and personal skills of your people and using that knowledge to your advantage.
The experience of myself and my staff has revealed that most BCM departments do not perform a comprehensive analysis of their staff members’ abilities and personal characteristics.
The Solution Isn’t Having More People, It’s Having the Right People
One thing I see frequently is business continuity managers who are concerned about gaps in their program hiring more and more people but giving little thought as to how these new team members fit into their strategic roadmap. The intention is good, but the result of such hiring can be disappointing or even negative. Often in such cases, we see a few staff members ending up overwhelmed with work while others have nothing to do.
When it comes to building a solid BCM team, the key consideration is not headcount. The most important thing to focus on is assembling a group of people who collectively have the right complement of skills to do the work that needs to be done.
Assessing Team Member Skillsets
In today’s job market, there are many individuals out there with varying degrees of BCM experience and training. In deciding who to bring onto your staff, you must intelligently assess the candidates’ skillsets and determine who will fit best with your team, not just today but in the future. In making these assessments, it helps to think in terms of two key areas: personal skillsets and professional skillsets.
Here are some of the key personal qualities to consider when looking at your current team members and potential new hires:
- Reactiveness. Does the person react to events with the appropriate level of urgency? Your key people should occupy a middle ground between being too laid-back and being high-strung. You want people to be attentive and take matters with due seriousness, but not to the point where they overreact or “freak out.”
- Tenacity. Does the person persist in the face of obstacles? Can they stay focused and work through problems when things are not going well? By its nature, BCM work is about when things go wrong. 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? Some people have it built into them to make things happen no matter what it takes. The quality of drive is one of the hardest to teach. People who have it are often invaluable members of a BCM team.
- Leadership. Can the person lead a team effectively? Some people are natural leaders. Some people who are highly competent but reserved can develop leadership skills with encouragement. There are many effective styles of 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, and in interacting with team members individually, they adapt their style to the personality of each individual.
- Conscientiousness. Does the person carry out assigned tasks to the best of their ability? Do they keep the interests of the team and organization at the front of their minds? Conscientious people take to heart the expression, “If you see something, say something.” Since the effectiveness of your business recovery plan depends on getting lots of little things right, it’s valuable to have people on your team who are extremely conscientious.
- Extraversion. Is the person comfortable with making and maintaining connections with a variety of people throughout the organization? Would they be comfortable leading a big group or giving a management presentation? Business continuity planning is a social activity. To deploy your staff members effectively, it is helpful to know where they fall on the spectrum of extraversion.
- Intellectual openness. Is the person open to trying new ideas, thoughts, or approaches? Do they have the ability to look at old things in new ways? In a field where one of the few constants is change—in technology, processes, and personnel—the quality of intellectual openness is key.
In evaluating the professional skillsets of your current staff and potential new faces, consider their ability across these important areas:
- 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?
- Additional skill areas. What other skills do they have that can be valuable? Are they good trainers? Do they understand third-party risk management? Do they possess the skill to present in front of others in your organization?
Measure and Quantify the Skillsets
By evaluating the personal and professional skillsets of your team members, you will develop a clear heat map of your team’s areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Your goal is to build a team that has a superior BCM capability. The ability to perform well in a crisis must be baked into your team well before the crisis happens.
So, how do you measure your team members’ skillsets? Here’s the way I recommend doing it for professional skillsets: create a spreadsheet that lists your people down the left-hand side. Across the top, break out the skills on which you want to assess them. I suggest doing it in three headings with the third subdivided as shown below:
3.Ability to Perform BCM Services
Then go through and give each person a rating from 0 to 5 for every skill.
Here’s what the different numbers mean (put this explanation at the bottom of your spreadsheet):
Then add a column at the right for the Team Member Skill Average and a row at the bottom for the Team Average by Competency. Then color-code the fields with these averages as follows:
The final result should look something like the graphic below.
A spreadsheet like this enables you to see at a glance where your team members stand in terms of their skills in different areas and overall. It shows which individuals can do work across multiple areas, and also who you might want to cross-train. It lets you identify the people who are interested in doing new things and expanding their capabilities. It also lets you see where you have holes in terms of the group’s competencies overall.
Fill out a similar spreadsheet for your staff’s personal skillsets, and you will be on your way to understanding your group and what it can do, as well as where you should target your efforts to strengthen it individually and collectively.
Build Your Team the Right Way
After you have assessed your team, you can go to work on improving it. Here is an action plan to help you build your team the right way:
- Put team members in the right seats. Once you understand your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know who can handle what in terms of the challenges that will come your way. Make sure that everyone is riding in the right seat on the bus.
- Identify who needs training. This is a big one. By honestly analyzing everyone’s skillsets, you will begin to discover who would benefit the most from the various kinds of training you have access to.
- Remediate weaknesses. It starts with the two items above.
- Determine who wants to learn something new. Some people are allergic to learning new things while others are addicted to it. Find the people on your team who are eager to learn new skills and help them do so.
- Use stronger team members to train others. Often your own staff is an underutilized resource. Do you have capable people who are open to sharing their knowledge with their colleagues? Not everyone is comfortable in a teaching role, but some people love it. Consider setting up an in-house teaching program.
- Identify people who need to look elsewhere. Often painful, but sometimes necessary.
- Identify people with whom you can delegate. As you learn what your people’s strengths are, you may find that some are very good at things you have been straining to handle yourself. Great! Delegate! The more of your work your staff can handle, the freer you are to do other things.
Do not trust to luck in assembling your staff. Build your team intelligently and thoughtfully.
- Create a team that has the right collection of skills to get the job done.
- Assess your team members’ skills, both personally and professionally.
- The ability to perform well in crisis must be baked into your team ahead of time.
- Plan and take the steps needed to improve the depth and breadth of your team.
Michael Herrera is the CEO of MHA Consulting, a leading business continuity planning and information technology consulting firm. Herrera is the founder of BCMMetrics, which specializes in business continuity software designed to aid organizations in developing and executing business continuity programs.