Is the threat real enough to spend money to lessen its impact? Perhaps a more direct way of phrasing this question is "Have you bought an electric generator yet?". Whether you have, or have not, is not the issue here - how you arrived at the answer is. We suggest your reasoning might go something like this:
Do I believe that my home may lose power for an extended period of time?
If I decide there will not be a power outage - is that a realistic conclusion based on fact; or is it just hoping for the best (the ostrich trick)?
If I do believe I will lose power, what are my family's minimum requirements (warmth, hot food & drink, light, refrigeration, entertainment, information)? To what extent am I prepared to downgrade my family's normal quality of life during such exceptional circumstances?
By what means can I satisfy those basic requirements (generator, batteries, camping equipment, wood stove, gas fire, battery radio, cell phone)?
What do I have already? What are the costs of the other stuff I could get? Are they available? When are stores likely to run out of them? Will my gas fire work without electricity? Should I stock up with spare batteries? What about food?
Are there ways in which I can reduce potential damage (rundown my stock of frozen and refrigerated food and increase my reserves of tinned food)?
Of my options, which would require a capital expense? What other family needs could be met with those funds? What is the best use of that money? Should I get a loan?
If I decide to purchase a generator: Where do I put it? Do I know how to hook it up? Can I get expert help? What will that cost and can I get it done in time? Where do I store fuel safely (I don't want to replace one threat with another!)?
If I have to use the generator will the noise bug me? Will my neighbors complain? Will they expect me to share? Will someone steal it? What are the chances of the police or army commandeering it?
Our suggestion is that what often seems to be a cut and dried argument when we are proposing to spend our organization's money becomes a little more complex when we are looking at spending our own. Being the company "specialist" is a bit like being a lawyer arguing only one side of a case, it is entirely different when we are weighing all the pros and cons and spending our own money. So is there a lesson for us here? We think there is. Any expenditure is at the cost of something else and we must be able to identify and address all the arguments before we can state our case effectively - the simplified view just will not hack it. In our example, buying a generator is not a "given" - we must be convinced that this is the very best solution in the circumstances - for if we dig deeper we might find that there are other, cheaper and more practical solutions. Making decisions at the corporate level should be as agonizing and demanding as at the personal. Business as usual may not be a realistic goal.
How you reach your decisions at home will depend on the family environment and dynamics. For every piece of hard information there will be rumors and conjecture. Every magazine seems to be calling on its own "experts" to develop its own survival list while the "authorities" are telling us there is nothing to worry about. Every family member will be subject to different influences and have differing opinions. Coming to a decision might be through gradual consensus-building over a prolonged period or through a heated discussion over the dinner table with all parties arguing their opposing views. The important point is that the discussions take place, differences are aired, hopefully fact is separated from fiction, the options weighed, and a reasonable decision made. Just as important is that the decisions are made in time for the necessary action to take place. In the office environment, even getting the issue debated can be a challenge. Often the decision-makers will be bombarded by opposing viewpoints and it is our job to present a "reasonable" course of action that reduces the risk to an acceptable level that may not be "business as usual" but will satisfy the expectations of our customers, at an affordable cost.
So far we have omitted perhaps the most compelling issue of all, both at home and at the office - that of image. At the personal level it goes like this "Am I, as a professional continuity / emergency planner, prepared to look stupid if we do lose power and I am not prepared? Can I live with myself if I get caught out? What implications could this have on my reputation and career?" From the business perspective this question has even greater repercussions. The questions are - "Will we lose market share if our competitors are prepared and we are not?" and "Could we be sued for failing to manage a known threat?"
One of the ongoing legacies of the Y2K issue is surely going to be a heightened expectancy by our customers, suppliers and the public in general that our organizations will be prepared for any disrupting event. If these expectations prove accurate, the practice of business continuity planning will increase in importance. However any proposal to fund business continuity plans and the management of that process will need a compelling argument in the face of competing proposals from areas with more immediate and obvious paybacks. Reflecting on how we come to our personal decisions about Year 2000 preparations may help us look at our arguments for any business continuity projects in a more balanced way. Hopefully, this insight will enable us to make our proposals from a basis of sound corporate responsibility, rather than just one-sided evangelical zeal.
Happy New Year (we hope).
Next in the series - The Millennium Rollover in the Rear
Reader comments are welcome. Please send to John Newton, Fax:416.929.3621 / firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rex Pattison, Fax: 416.866.5706 / email@example.com