In closing the previous post I deliberately used a popular misquote. The full quote reads like this;
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
When experience is not retained we don’t grow and mature … lets try to remember some contributions from the past. Do you remember these three contributions from 2010?
A New Dawn or a step too far?
A new decade and the JAN/FEB 2010 issue of Continuity Magazine had this article from then BCI Technical Director Lyndon Bird. I would love to link the article but I cannot find it in a search. I do have a PDF, if you really want to read it shout and I can share it.
Lyndon sketched the history of BC up to 2010 in this way;
- 1980’s was the Dawn of the Subject
- 1990’s saw the formalisation of the core principles, and
- 2000’s was about codification into formal standards
The challenge for the next decade? “full acceptance by top management as a strategic part of business success.” How do you think we are we going with that 7 years later?
Fascinating that Lyndon talked about the contemporary environment in 2010 – economic crises, emerging threats like energy security, climate change and cyber crime. Things that are still not fully understood and included in the BC arena.
He also had a timely warning,
“if we think of the discipline of BCM as an intellectual ‘product’, it is salutary to remember that many such products have a maximum lifespan of around 30 years before either falling out of fashion or being replaced by a more comprehensive model.”
When I interviewed Lyndon on my podcast a year or so back I asked him about the fact that much of current practice (e.g. BIA and the Lifecycle) is 30 years old and is it time to dump it? You will have to listen to see how he responded.
Perhaps the “30 year rule” explains some of the present day pre-occupation with the idea of resilience.
Lyndon included some positives that he considered positioned the discipline well for the future such as no longer being focussed on the high impact/low probability events and that BC has become a standardised management (Systems) practice. Interesting that the challenges he warned against are often the flip side of those positives – being seen as a purely compliance regime (flip of management systems thinking), perceived as recovery arm of risk and promising more than delivers (generally because people are still clinging to the high impact low probability Disaster Recovery Planning model).
‘The Department of Unlikely Events’ was how Nathaniel Forbes described the practice in his 2010 article. He labelled BC is this way because he saw that many/most practitioners were actually focussed on the High Impact/Low Probability events. Here is the Continuity Central version, the original was on his Forbes Calamity blog. This is in many ways a bleak perspective describing a non-strategic, loss leading, cost-centre. The type of area that is tolerated in good times and cut in tight times.
Personally I don’t see any conflict between the two articles. Lyndon was pushing ideas for the next decade and Nat was (is?) describing the current context of practice.
Nat’s proposition for the future had three core elements – but it is a good article so please go and read for yourself.
- Suggested that a BC department may not last beyond next 10 years (note for diary, that will be 2020, fast approaching!)
- Most likely future is in merger of similar/related disciplines such as Security, Risk, etc. The challenge here is will these be hostile takeovers or collaborative activities.
- I think we are already seeing this happen, again it often seems to have the Resilience label.
- To be relevant we need to expand the range of risks and consequences that BC addresses to include strategic risks, non-physical events and to adopt collaborative approaches to response and recovery.
- Most importantly BC folks need to develop new skills – especially something he called “executive Gravitas”.
Again we see similar visions, more and better skills – especially in terms of being credible and relevant to Executive management. The first step to build that relevance is probably to focus on those wider and strategic risk domains.
Have we lost sight of the bigger picture?
Not just today, but did we really understand the bigger picture back in 2010? That was the title of Tim Armit’s contribution (or some may say ‘lament’) in 2010 based on his 21 years of practice.
Tim advocated for focusing on a wider range of risks – in particular he thought we needed to look at those risks that are most likely to put an entity out of business. This article includes one of my favourite quotes about what BC is or should be;
“… surely a business that does not continue clearly fails in business continuity; is the clue not in the name?”
This was in response to BC practitioners from failed companies telling Tim that they did not fail due to a BC event!
Tim’s article also highlighted that a number of regulatory agencies had effectively embedded the narrow BC focus into their policy and the result of that would inform the risk and compliance processes in many entities.
Skills and wider focus are key ideas suggested 7 years ago. But I cannot see where the core practices and techniques were reframed to accomodate this.
You can still find plenty of debate defending the narrow “Unlikely Event” practices.
Some homework that doesn’t require reading, but does include learning, is to watch this video from Simon Sinek and think about the “Why?” of BC in our current threat and organizational contexts.
How should we reframe the problem we are trying to address?
I will have 3 more historic articles with future suggestions in the next post.
Tracey Linnell says
Great article, as a consultant and embed practitioner at a client, we are definitely seeing the ‘hostile takeover’ of BC by other disciplines. And I couldn’t agree more that to be relevant in today’s business, if you are not known/in the face of the executive, you are one step from the exit door…
Ken Simpson says
Glad you found it useful Tracey. Too often I suspect the ‘hostile takeover’ is a reflection of the relative power/credibility or even relevance of the disciplines – and perhaps in some instances the specific practitioners involved.
Certainly supports Nat Forbes comment re the need for Executive Gravitas, and making the overall practice more relevant and strategic going forward.