I’ve been trying to come up with a good word to describe what the world feels like right now. “Eerie,” is one I thought of. Others are “volatile,” “scary,” and “on edge.”
How else do you describe a world in which a year’s worth of bad news is happening every week?
You know the kinds of things I’m talking about: the war in Europe, the billion-dollar storms, the 400-point Dow swings, pandemic, inflation, civil discord, terrible school shootings and other violence.
We’ve had more of that in the last few years than we’ve ever had. We also, as the result of all the turmoil, have more collective anxiety.
That’s the bad news.
The good news, those of us who do business continuity for a living are in the fortunate position of being able to do more than worry. Our knowledge and skills are uniquely suited to this moment.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what it means to work in BC during in troubled times. Here are four things that strike me as being particularly interesting about being a BC professional when the world seems to be going haywire.
First, people return your phone calls. I’m speaking figuratively but you know what I mean. Suddenly business continuity has become top of mind for people who don’t usually think that much about it. We saw this during the beginning of the pandemic, and it surged again with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and the resulting disruptions. When bad things seem to be happening all the time, even many executives who are not big on preparedness start coming around to the idea that maybe they should get serious about resiliency. If I can speak on behalf of the profession, I have to admit this is a pleasant change.
Second, the core job we have always done—of identifying likely risks and putting resiliency plans in place to mitigate them—has become more challenging than ever. The degree of difficulty in our profession is going up. The possible threats are multiplying, and many of the things we have to plan for today would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Meanwhile, the need for us to do our jobs well has become greater than ever. In a multi-hazard environment, the margin for error in our resiliency planning shrinks toward zero. At a time like this, we should be ready to give our very best.
The third notable thing about doing BC now is that the current turmoil amounts to a significant opportunity. Because organizations today are so worried about risks, they are more open than usual to making changes. What is the biggest change most of us would like to see at our organizations in terms of business continuity? It’s for them to make resiliency thinking and practices part of the company culture. (As you know, too many companies look at BC as an obligation imposed on them by functional outsiders.) If the current situation can help us move closer to the goal of making BC part of every organization’s culture, that would be a significant silver lining.
Finally, we come to the aspect of doing BC in troubled times I think is the most important of all. It’s the demeanor we bring to our jobs and our interactions with our coworkers. As BC professionals, we sometimes tend to emphasize the terrible things that might happen to try to get people to take continuity seriously. In the current environment, everyone who’s paying attention knows bad things can happen. In this world, I think the BC professional can make a real contribution by being a calming voice. In times like these, a good motto for us is, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
To expand on the point, BC practitioners, in addition to ensuring their organizations are prepared, should let their colleagues know about the steps the organization has taken to protect itself. Provided those preparations are meaningful, their coworkers will be glad to hear about them. Knowing the company is resilient will take a load off their minds regarding the stability of their jobs and livelihood. This will make life better for them and their families and communities. In this overly stressful time, BC practitioners who can legitimately bring down their coworkers’ anxieties will be performing a tremendous service. Doing BC in troubled times means facing an unprecedented challenge. It also represents an unprecedented opportunity to serve.