During my few weeks working with the BCM team I began to learn the foundations of a good, and not so good, Business Continuity plan. In order to understand this new subject I did what I always do; liken it to something related to everyday and in this instance - cooking.
A Business Continuity Plan can be seen as a recipe, which brings together the right ingredients, at the right time to produce a desired result. These recipes can have very different ingredients or instruction but the fundamental processes, as with culinary skills, are the same and can be relied upon again and again.
Consider the Béchamel sauce – a simple roux, [for those not familiar, this is a combination of butter and flour] combined with milk which can then be adapted for an endless array of sauces – cheese, brandy, rum, added to lasagne, fish pie, the list goes on.
During discussions of what to include in a plan, I realised that it’s not just the actions that need to be included, but specific instructions of how that action is going to happen, what resources are required, and when, in relation to the other actions, it should be completed – therefore providing the recipe to respond to the disruption at hand.
When you open Delia’s ‘How to Cook’, she doesn’t say “bung it in a pan and hope for the best”, instead she gives you the step by step instruction that any wobbly kneed new cook requires to make something that is edible with minimal stress. That, I have realised, is what a good BCM plan tries to achieve – not just the action, but the HOW that action can be completed.
To go to all the effort to write a plan, but fail to give the right instructions and guidance, makes the plan useless and ineffective, and at a time of crisis, no one can make head or tail of what they are doing. There is nothing worse than after half an hour of sweating over the stove; the recipe has not given you guidance on how to finish – for example place in the oven until cooked. How do you know when it is cooked? How long for? What temperature? Bake for 20 minutes, at 200oC, until crisp and golden, is considerably more helpful, and helps you avoid the dreaded blackened signs of burning failure.
Finally the BCM plan should be exercised. The BCM plan needs to become that reliable recipe; that one when no matter who is coming for dinner, or how little warning you have, you know it will work. A brand new recipe when the future in-laws are coming for dinner could lead to a much more stressful situation, not knowing what is going to happen or if the meal will even be edible. In the event of a crisis, the team need to know what they are doing to minimise any extra stress in an already stressful environment and exercising will help ensure this.
Once complete and exercised all that is left to do is ensure the ingredients are in the cupboard and the recipe is close to hand, should a disaster strike.