Managing Change as Factor of Success
by David Effgen
When I first started working in the business continuity planning industry over eight years ago, I sold contingency planning software tools. One of the buzzwords at the time was "relational database".
There were many in the industry who said that if you were going to be successful in your planning efforts you should consider the use of software. And, if in fact, you decided to license software, you should seriously consider products that incorporate relational database. Why? Things change.
Although the use of software that utilizes relational database may ease the process of maintaining your plans, there is an element of change that I believe is more fundamental to the long-term success of those efforts.
And that is managing the change that takes place as you initiate or continue with your organization’s planning efforts.
By definition, change is, "to make or become different in some way". Therefore managing this process of becoming "different" is at the heart of a successful business continuity planning program.
Whether unwittingly or by design, I firmly believe that organizations who successfully practice contingency planning, utilize this concept of managing change. As you will see what I propose are textbook management concepts, which are straight forward and self-explanatory.
Components of managing change include:
Vision is the belief system that supports and anchors all actions. If the anchor shifts or is not firmly planted, the ship drifts. A shared common vision impacts the firm’s strategic plans and daily operations. It provides the basis for prioritization and decision-making.
In an age where most companies vision statements firmly proclaim their dedication to providing the best products and customer service, it’s ironic that many organizations do not approach their contingency planning with similar zeal. The irony is that it would be impossible to live up to such a vision if your phone lines were down, or couldn’t access your data or get into your building.
Skills are the abilities needed to accomplish the required tasks. Each individual doesn’t need to possess all of the skills required to meet the group’s objectives — but the group collectively must have the required skills.
A clear sense of an organizations’ commitment to contingency planning is analyzing the criteria that was used for selecting the individual(s), who has been assigned the responsibility for planning.
It might be helpful to understand the task at hand before you assign a person or persons with the appropriate skill sets.
Incentives are the motivators that encourage people to act. Incentives can be intrinsic or extrinsic; material or human; generic or specific; fixed or negotiated; positive or negative. Putting it simply, incentives can be defined as the rewards and penalties for actions or inactions.
If you want the incentives that you establish to be effective, they must have substance and they must be attainable. Without appropriate rewards or penalties, e.g., if participants don’t understand what’s in it for them, then involvement and ownership of the planning process will suffer.
Resources are the people, money, hardware, software, and other items needed to carry out the vision. Resources can be dedicated, shared, or just identified (to be drawn upon if and when needed).
The accessibility of resources is in direct proportion to an organizations commitment to the planning process..
Typically, the higher the profile of the management support, the higher the priority and availability of resources.
An action plan synthesizes and sequences the components of the change process and communicates the essential information to all participants — who is responsible for what and when.
A business continuity planning project is like any other business project. A successful business project begins with realistic goals and objectives, which are consistent with the organization’s vision and which are translated into specific, clear and attainable tasks and timeframes in the action plan.
A successful resolution of a planning project, whether by intuition or thoughtful planning, requires that you manage how this change will impact the process.
The following graphic demonstrates the resulting effect if one of the change components is without Vision, you would have confusion. It would be like a ship with no mission and no destination.
Even if you were able to push away from the dock, where would you go, what would you do?
Without Skills, you would have anxiety. We’ve all been in situations where we felt we were in over our heads. It’s easy to understand why anxiety levels rise when people are given tasks for which they are not suited.
Without Incentives, you would have disinterest. If it doesn’t matter to anyone whether you have a business continuity plan or not, you won’t have one. If it matters a little or only to a few, maybe you’ll have a cursory plan. The relationship is simple and direct.
Without the appropriate Resources, you would have frustration. Can you imagine how quickly your project would falter and how frustrated you would be:
If the committed participants became uncommitted or had higher priorities?
If the necessary information wasn’t gathered?
If the software you needed to develop, document, and maintain your plan wasn’t available?
If your funding disappeared?
Without an Action Plan, you would have false starts. You would end up starting and stopping, again and again, and maybe stopping altogether. An action plan is like a road map. Without one, you are likely to get lost.
The business environment of the 90’s and beyond will dictate a closer look into the business continuity requirements of most organizations. The factors driving the emphasis on business continuity will include:
•more stringent legal and regulatory requirements
•constantly available communications and information
•increased man-made disasters
•more customer demands for guaranteed continuity
•increased importance on business alliances
•more real-time and interactive business transactions
•increased intolerance for long lead and response times.
In the future, any interruption in service will be much more pernicious and potentially threatening to business survival than ever before.
Business continuity planning will be recognized as best practice and an ongoing cost of business. If organizations intend to live up to their vision statements, there will be no excuse for having inappropriate continuity plaWhere will you be when the lights go out? Other than in the dark, it may be a function of how well you and your organization have employed all or some element of these managing change concepts. At the very least, you might try documenting what your Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plans are for your planning program. This could well be an excellent exercise in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your program and your company’s commitment to it!
David Effgen is a Strategic Account Manager for ELEKOM Corporation, a developer of integrated electronic purchasing software, based in Bellevue, WA.
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