Please note that this is a page from a previous version of Continuity Central and is no longer being updated.

To see the latest business continuity news, jobs and information click here.

Business continuity information

Executive buy-in? It doesn't end there

Middle management also needs to be sold business continuity if corporate inertia is to be overcome. By Nick Johnson.

I've often read about how important executive buy-in is to a successful business continuity program. A skilled business continuity practitioner is not only proficient in marshalling the resources necessary to keep business moving, but also at ‘selling the program.’ Without executive buy-in there would be no program to pursue. Without a persuasive business continuity planner extolling the virtues of BC planning to the head office, there would be no executive buy-in and thus, minimal allocation of resources to the program. But is executive buy-in, in and of itself, enough?

Simply put: no.

You might ask: ‘Why isn't executive buy-in enough?’ In answer, I would argue that our corporate structure allows too much discretion in middle management for executive buy-in to guarantee that a business continuity program will be successful.

Modern corporate enterprises are often compared to a human body. The CEO and his staff are the brains, the heart and lungs are the central operations; hands and feet are the support operations and infrastructure. One could spend hours retelling the various, different descriptions. However, modern corporations are rarely homogeneous artifices that move instantaneously to the directives of the CEO. Clearly, they do move in the direction that the CEO/brain indicates. However, unlike a human body, each appendage and organ of a corporation has a degree of control over that movement. Department heads and office managers act like their own CEOs, prioritizing projects and actions to a far greater degree than a hand prioritizes for its body.

The dramatic effects of this can be clearly seen if we revisit the human body analogy. Imagine its 3:15 in the afternoon and you’re hungry. It's not really that hard, is it? Naturally, you decide to pilfer that candy bar hidden in your desk drawer. In your own mind, you think: "Get the candy bar." Your hand reaches out and grabs it. Your whole body moves in concert to acquire that tasty treat. But in a corporate body, the manager of the hand might tell you, "Yes, we can get that candy bar, but right now we're focused on the 'itchy elbow' project. Give us a few hours and we'll have that bar to you." Corporate movement and action is as dependant on internal inertia as much as it is on CEO directives. Sometimes, even more so.

This institutional inertia is evident in the office every day. How many times have you discussed business continuity plans with a department head and known that his or her mind is elsewhere? It's inevitable. It's human nature. For modern corporate managers, there is always a quarterly report due or some other project that has to take priority. Even if the message has been sent down the chain of command that business continuity is a top priority, the business of business is always a higher priority.

So, what are these priorities that managers are juggling? In January of this year, the Gartner Group published its top ten list of business priorities for 2011:

1. Increasing enterprise growth
2. Attracting and retaining new customers
3. Reducing enterprise costs
4. Creating new products and services (innovation)
5. Improving business processes
6. Implementing and updating business applications
7. Improving technical infrastructure
8. Improving enterprise efficiency
9. Improve operations
10. Improving business continuity, risk and security.

Right there at number ten, business continuity snuck in. Honestly, when I sought something documenting the top business priorities for 2011, I wasn't expecting business continuity to rank even that high. Clearly, this shows that BC practitioners have been doing their jobs. But the number ten ranking also means that the manager of department X sitting across the desk from you probably has nine other projects or programs that he ranks ahead of business continuity. And in point of fact, it's natural and right for him or her to view it that way. He or she isn't managing business continuity. He or she is managing a group of people with a separate business pursuit.

So where does that leave us? Right back in the position of selling the program. It leaves us with the job of convincing the manager that business continuity needs to be part of his everyday business life. Just as he or she is responsible for monitoring payroll and managing his staff, he or she must also be responsible for maintaining his or her office's business continuity plan. Executive buy-in is just the first step. Middle management buy-in is the next step.

With each meeting and each test, we need to push ourselves to convince that manager or director that business continuity is important. The exercises we go through annually are more than just a check box to mark off on their compliance report. We need to sell them on the idea that business continuity must be part of their daily operations. How do we do this? We do it the same way we won that coveted spot in the top 10. We teach them how business continuity can save money, save clients and customers and even save the lives and livelihoods of the people working under him or her.

Each time I go into a test or review, I am reminded that business continuity is about people, processes and resources. As this thought crosses my mind, I force myself to think about more than that. Business continuity might deal with people, processes and resources, but those people are not automatons simply there to engage in the business. Each day at five o'clock, perhaps four thirty on nice sunny Fridays if we're lucky, the people of our company leave to go to their homes and families. They don't work simply to engage their time. They work in our offices so they can live in the manner they see fit; taking their husbands/wives or girlfriends/boyfriends to a movie. Or their kids to ice cream. Their ability to do the things they want to do, the things that are important to them, is intertwined with their company's ability to execute its business strategies. And by pursuing business continuity, we are protecting each and every one of them.

This is the thought that is often missing in our discussions with managers. This is also our strongest argument to convince middle managers that business continuity needs to be more than just something that is thought about once or twice a year. Our CEOs and presidents understand that business continuity not only protects business but people too. Now we need to grow this mentality throughout the enterprise.

So is executive buy-in enough? Not ever. BC practitioners need to get buy-in from each and every person in the company. We've got buy in from the head. Now we have to convince the rest of the body to come along as well.

Nick Johnson CBCP, has 13 years experience working in a number of business continuity roles both public and private. In his current role at Webster Bank, Nick coordinates the testing, maintenance and update of 40 BC plans as well as managing the Disaster Recovery program. Nick Lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children.
Contact: nick.m.c.johnson@gmail.com

Discuss business continuity

•Date: 1st November 2011 • Region: US/World •Type: Article • Topic: BC general

Business Continuity Newsletter Sign up for Continuity Briefing, our weekly roundup of business continuity news. For news as it happens, subscribe to Continuity Central on Twitter.

How to advertise How to advertise on Continuity Central.

To submit news stories to Continuity Central, e-mail the editor.

Want an RSS newsfeed for your website? Click here