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Volume 30, Issue 3

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This article is dedicated to all those unappreciated contingency planners in the corporate world! It seems to me that no matter how many disasters occur, there are always skeptical managers that will continue to risk it all by not having or supporting business continuity plans/efforts in their corporations. The old adage is true, “It will never happen to us so why fret my pet! There are more important things we can do with the money...like executive bonuses, yeah that’s it!” How many of us have or continue to run up against this style of leadership? In spite of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the FDIC and other regulatory agencies, the many regional disasters and recent disasters caused by foreign and domestic terrorism, managers are still not prompted to action. Some do pay lip service to the concepts on one hand while cutting off the resources on the other. Still those of us committed professionals in contingency planning react by forming network groups and joining associations to further our knowledge in our field. We meet monthly or quarterly with our colleagues, counterparts, and associated vendors. We meet with our internal & external auditors. We get them on board. Yet the management does not move. When we get them to even listen, they have a short attention span, we are told! Why is this so?

Let’s face it, we are the part of the corporation known as the third class citizenry. How we came about our jobs was mostly not by choice and what we are selling is insurance. In order to accomplish this, we disable our corporate client, by detailing the terrible things that would occur if a disaster strikes and then detail the areas or procedures that need shoring up in order to make us more ready to survive a disaster! We are doom mongers! To put it mildly, we are great pains in the necks of our corporate management. What do you usually do with a pain in the neck? You turn them off and hope that he or she will go away. The only ones that will listen to us are our own kind and the vendors who are in the business of giving us the business!

The question is not what our corporation can do for us but what we can do for the corporation!?! Sounds familiar? I think it goes further than that. Until a member of our corporate management attends one or more of these conferences on a regular basis, taking an interest without falling asleep, and carries the concept back with him to infect the other executives, we will not be fully successful in our jobs! How do we accomplish this? We are all highly adept at or have tried to get management’s attention by submitting articles, doing presentations, and using the internal & external auditors as a weapon and an ally for our cause. An awful lot of efforts have fallen on deaf ears. So how do we get their attention? Do we stage a mini disaster? Do we create a real one to recover from to make a point? No. We would lose our jobs or be branded as a loose cannon in a minute! Then what do we do? Do we plod along hoping that a disaster never occurs or do we look for another line of work? Unfortunately, as we who are caught in this bind know, there is no easy solution to this dilemma. It is a catch 22 situation. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t! The only productive thing we can do is to continue to work ardently within the organization, searching for allies and making as few enemies as possible.

This is tough in the sense that if we are the auditor’s ‘stoolie’, one who has or hasn’t an updated plan, how can we remain friendly with the affected area or department? It all comes down to building rapport with your client base. Be diplomatic in showing that while the auditors have cited the area for noncompliance, it was after their review of the existing plans of which you stand ready to help them fix in a jiffy! In addition to this we have to continue to beat the drum and wave the flag, for our cause is a noble one. Is it more nobler than that of an insurance or car salesman? You bet it is! After all we are talking about the survival of the corporation in a disaster, are we not? Or are we gearing up to rescue the corporation, heroically rewarded via the lecture show circuit, or book or movie deals? Whatever our motivation may be, one thing is certain.

We need to be cognizant of our corporate functions and be able to provide our uneducated management with information at a moments notice, so that they in turn can make an educated decision! That is why we have to keep trying. We better ourselves by attending our own specialty niche group meetings and conferences, recharging our batteries, supporting one another and at the same time continuing to educate our management and employees via articles, field trips, training and demonstrations.

Our goal is to put all negative aspects of the job behind us, in order to be prepared for our 15 minutes of fame that may or may not ever come! What a job this is, what an adventure! What a challenge!

Michael Diaz-Piedra III, CDRP, is a contingency planning director with Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.