In business continuity, it is essential to be an effective communicator in order to effectively convey your plans and strategies to others. If you can’t get your message across to those who need it, often times your planning efforts will not be taken as seriously as they should be.
To be an effective communicator, you need an approach that will help you be successful in getting the involvement, support and buy-in that you need.
Here are 10 tips to help you be a more effective business continuity planner.
Set Goals and Make a Plan
Without clear goals, it is easy to get bogged down, and lose sight of what you want to accomplish. In setting your goals think about what it is you want your final outcome to be and begin to work backward to set your priorities.
What do you need to do to accomplish your goals? Make a list of all the steps needed to reach them . These steps will establish your priorities in a fashion that will lead to accomplishing you goals. Without priorities, you can find yourself ignoring some key steps while chasing down information to complete tasks. Write your goals down and prioritize them. Include the order in which they have to be completed and by when each have to be completed.
Develop a Path
Once you have established your goals, develop a path for achieving them. Nothing spells disaster more than not knowing how you are going to get where you want to go. Think of what you want to achieve and then work backwards in developing your path/approach.
Your organization’s leadership is the key to having a successful business continuity program. If they don’t see value in what you are trying to achieve, they won’t support it. Often times, I have gone into situations where the only reason an organization or agency had a business continuity program was to meet regulatory or policy requirements. Support beyond that was almost absent. I have also been in situations where the leadership was not engaged by prior BC planners and as a result, the BC program suffered greatly. Most leaders don’t understand business continuity the same way business continuity planners do. If we invite them to participate in the program’s development , they will be more inclined to offer up their support.
Get Leadership Commitment
Getting the commitment of leadership is essential to the success of the program. Without it, it could be like looking for your keys in a dark room. You may get lucky, but mostly you will just get frustrated.
Tell Leadership Your Goals – It’s important that they know your goals in order to support your efforts
Show Leadership Your Plan – Let them see the path you have developed and allow them to adjust it as necessary
Ask for Help – Let them know upfront the access you require and if there are any resources you need to reach your goals
Schedule Monthly Reviews – Keep them involved by scheduling monthly project reviews. Here you can also discuss what you have accomplished and any obstacles you many have or are encountering.
Know Your Audience
When speaking about your planning efforts, don’t expect many people to understand business continuity terminology. Use terminology they can understand and make sense of. The fastest way to bore or confuse your audience is to talk in ways that they don’t fully understand. And, as a rule, don’t use acronyms until your audience is comfortable with them.
When it comes to having to use terminology, be consistent. Whether you call it disaster recovery, or business continuity or business resiliency or emergency preparedness, keep it consistent across the program. This way people will learn and understand what you are talking about. Using multiple terms will just confuse them.
Keep it Simple
Business continuity plans that are 400 pages long are less effective than plans that are 45 pages or less. In an emergency situation, people are not going to have the time to read through the entire plan to find what they need. Keeping your plans short and direct will serve recovery teams much more effectively. Tabbing your plans so recovery teams can pull out only the section or sections they need to function is an even more effective approach to simplicity. Simple is better.
Build a Network
Having a network of professionals in the industry will help you in many ways. Nobody in the BC industry knows everything, but everybody in the industry knows something. If you have a question or a problem, being able to ask for advice or bounce ideas off of fellow industry members plays to your advantage. The best place to begin building this network is LinkedIn. There are several groups that are more than willing to share ideas and give advice. Connect with those individuals who provide you with the best advice. Having those connections at the ready will make exchanging ideas and advice quicker in the future.
Provide Answers, not Stories
Too many times I have asked a question and never got the actual answer . Or the answer I received was something I had to dissect and analyze.
When someone asks a question about business continuity, answer the question. Don’t provide a narrative, or try to explain yourself first or tell a story. Provide them an answer. Then you can go into a narrative or story if you prefer.
For example, if someone asks you if you prefer the mission critical method over the core competency method, answer the question directly . It’s a yes or no question. Not a chance for you to explain the deeper meaning and the differences between the two. Answer yes or no or I’m not sure and then explain it. Don’t explain yourself first.
Go to the Source to Get What You Need
Ask the right people for the information you need. Say you want to get some information on how the company network is configured. Most planners would go to the network engineer to get this information. Maybe you will get the information and maybe you will get part or none of it. Your best approach is to go to the head of the engineering department and tell them what you are doing and what kind of information you need. This person will likely point you in the right direction for getting that information. With this approach you engage the leadership and you have buy-in for what you are doing. They are more likely to help you because you involved them in your process.
Keys to Success
- Developing goals and priorities and communicating them to your organization’s leadership will aid you in getting the information you need.
- Communicate what you are trying to accomplish to those who can help you succeed.
- Connecting with others in the Business Continuity community will help you get answers to problems, share ideas and provide you with a source of experienced planners, trainers and writers who are willing to assist you.
- Keep things simple, but ensure they are actionable.
Mike Minzes is the CEO of INEVOLVE SB, a disaster preparedness planning company located just outside of Washington DC. Minzes has more than 20 years of experience proving disaster preparedness and business continuity planning for both the federal and commercial markets.