Much has been written in recent years about the best way to select business continuity consultants. Those who have written on this topic have all seemed to do an excellent job of identifying the right prerequisites. These are categories such as: staff resumes, certifications, industry experience, references, cost factors and so forth. All are good formulations to follow that we certainly agree with and applaud. However, how do you select a great business continuity consultant versus just a good one? History can be a great teacher in this regard.
Napoleon, historically one of the great military leaders, was willing to do the unorthodox to convince himself his military planning was going to work. He did not simply create a military strategy and send out the plans that put his infantry, cavalry and artillery into action. He wanted first to make certain that all of his Army would grasp the intent of the plan and could operate as one. Yet, he could not walk among his thousands of officers and the soldiers in the ranks to ensure he could achieve this, so he took a different approach.
“During every Battle Plan’s briefing Napoleon would have a Corporal shine his boots knowing that the Corporal was listening. Once the General Staff finished the brief, Napoleon would look down at the Corporal and asked if he understood the plan. If the Corporal answered, Yes Sir! The General would have his Staff execute the plan. If the Corporal answered, No Sir! The General would have the General Staff rewrite the plan.” —www.americanincite.com
Napoleon had the life experience and insight to appreciate the intricacies of organizations, cultures and people and how to knit them together to execute a great battle plan. He did what he could do to test his ideas and it worked well for him. (Well….most of the time anyway. You do have to wonder who shined his boots before the battle of Waterloo.)
This brings us to the essence in this article. With business continuity planning, it is just not enough just to have well credentialed, qualified consultants who can create good plans, they must also have those characteristics to be able to understand and match the intricacies of organizations, cultures and people to a dynamic business continuity process and create great plans. How do you identify the business continuity consultants who are enlightened enough to think and act this way?
Getting Past The Kabuki Dance To Find The Business Continuity Zen Master
Most of us have probably sat on both sides of the table during the sales cycle. We have marketed potential clients to sell our consulting services. We have been marketed to ourselves to become clients. We have prepared our staff resumes, certifications, industry experience, references, cost proposal and so forth. We have had the same presented to us. Finally, after all of this activity someone is selected.
If you have been in the consulting business for awhile, and you have seen both sides of this process, you understand the dynamics. You obviously present yourself in the best light and will always see others in their best light. It is somewhat like dating.
We also know with dating that things do not always work out. So, what’s the rub? The rub is that there is a lot of Kabuki Theater to all of this, that while very necessary, does not always tell you all you need to know about the consultant you are about to hire.
If you have read this article to this point, you realize by now that after paying the homage due to the obvious selection criteria for picking a business continuity consultant, we are talking about the “not so obvious” selection criteria. There is a story of the interesting recruiting techniques used by one of the more successful trading firms on Wall Street. Trading is a tough, grinding business that not all are suited for. Many cannot take the intensity and pressures of trading.
As a group of potential hires were being reviewed, almost all who have near perfect grades, many college of activities and clubs, etc., there is one who just has a good G.P.A, and no clubs or activities. He works every spare hour he can to pay for his education. That is the one they decide to hire. Why? Evidence of the character and drive to succeed despite the odds.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” —Theodore Roosevelt
Passion, drive, and a commitment to excellence are what make a good business continuity consultant a great one. Find consultants who, beyond the pristine view we all must present during the Kabuki Dance, bring to the table evidence of life experience and a holistic, yet pragmatic appreciation for what will work and what will not.
Find people who have successes, yet also failures who can honestly describe what they have learned from both. Find people who seem to have the common touch and can equally understand what the CEO needs for the entire enterprise to be successful, yet can also equally understand what the worker on the ground needs to do to make things really happen.
Finding These People
This is where this becomes an art and not a science. Once, while deciding on a potential sub-contractor partner for a consulting assignment we wished to bid on, we made on-site visits to the offices of the candidates to get to know them better, and decide on who we wanted to team with. Each visit would result in the normal exchanges of information. All were well qualified and very close in capabilities. We felt good mutual chemistry in every case. It was hard to decide who to choose.
The last place we visited was a small company that was working very hard to be successful. During the visit, as we were leaving, we spied a sign over their door. People, who worked there, on their way out, reached up and slapped the sign. It said:
“Do what it takes for our clients to be successful and we will be successful.”
You do have to look for clues. We decided at that moment that they were the right partner for us.
Find great business continuity consultants the same way. Find people who think about planning like Napoleon did, that Theodore Roosevelt would have liked to hang out with.
Dick Broome is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton with more than 35 years of military, continuity, and crisis response experience.