05 Feb 2020

Getting smarter about major disruptions

Business continuity planning is no longer trendy. But that doesn’t stop your customers and partners (including employees) expecting your business to be ‘on’ all the time. 

Major disruptions stop, or can drastically affect, business continuing. They can be global or local; a virus outbreak half a world away, an earthquake, flooding, electricity or telecommunications failure to name a few.

If you are supplying live crayfish halfway across the world, what happens if your customers stop buying and your transport stops flying? (It’s happening right now as the Wuhan coronavirus hits.)

If you operate medical services, your patients expect you to be there. If you are a hospital, your emergency department is expected to be operational to save lives, and your admitted patients need caring for. 

If you are a local authority, your community expects the roads to stay open. What is more, if you can’t pay your staff and contractors, maybe they won’t get fixed, even if they are broken.

In reality, planning for major disruptions is about managing risks. A first critical step is finding out how big a risk a disruption might be before putting money and effort into planning for it. 

One reason why traditional business continuity planning is out of favour is too much effort goes into big complex plans that do not reflect what actually happens. 

So, simple workable plans that are easy to use, and adapt, are a key part of keeping your business ‘on.’ 

Finding out how big your risk is means being clear about your objectives so you can keep rechecking those risks as the world changes. 

A change to the threat (consequence, likelihood or both) may make better preparation worthwhile. 

Simple starter plans and things to focus on for the key parts of the organisation will often help. Who in the marketing team needs to look for new markets if your customers stop buying live crayfish? What are the basic steps? If you are a hospital, who finds people to run your emergency department after a flood? 

You may not need to take any actions (yet) but you do need the tools.

Another critical element is having the means available for clear communication and decision making. Your executive team may need to decide quickly and with limited information. Do they know how to do this? 

Finally, can you be sure this will work when you need it? 

So old fashioned detailed business continuity plans are a waste of time. Don’t pay for them to be left gathering dust in the back corner. 


• Do understand your objectives, clearly and specifically 

• Do keep assessing threats to those objectives 

• Do have simple starter plans to meet objectives if something goes wrong 

• Do have clear communications and decision-making methods which work when things go wrong 

• Do test these basics frequently with exercises 

Talk to us at InsideOutWorks about how to make this work for your organisation. 



Steve Vaughan

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