Effective Business Continuity Management requires acceptance and understanding at all levels of an organisation. In order for it to be successful there must be management buy-in and investment, and a well-thought out strategic plan. However one aspect that’s often overlooked, but which is of significant importance, is the psychological and physiological factors that can have a major impact during a crisis. 

During the chaos and confusion created in a crisis, it is easy for fear and panic to take over, and this can completely change the way some people handle different scenarios. Planning for these reactions and barriers helps to ensure a successful implementation of Business Continuity and can help to reduce disruption and the time between the incident and remediation.

Here I outline some of the key considerations and proactive steps that organisations should take in order to curb the chaos during a crisis.

Assigning Roles and Responsibilities

In the event of an incident, there is bound to be a degree of panic and confusion and, in this atmosphere, it is easy for people to misunderstand what their responsibilities are. Individual’s reactions during a crisis can vary widely and even with the best laid plans the idiosyncrasies of human nature can take effect. Failing to address these can have a negative impact on managing the aftermath of an incident.

This is why it is so important that in a continuity plan, there is a clearly designated crisis management team and that every member understands their role. This must also filter down to staff across the organisation, from department to department, with each team and its members fully understanding what is expected from them.

Designating these roles and assigning responsibilities is usually the task of the Crisis Management Team; which is made up of the Business Continuity Manager, senior decision-makers and key business unit representatives. Not only will this team ensure that roles are defined and assigned, but it will also guarantee senior management commitment, putting business continuity at the top of the agenda.

The Importance of Confidence and Authority

Another key psychological hurdle is ensuring that designated staff have the requisite authority to declare an incident or a disaster and that those qualified understand this and have the confidence to invoke business continuity plans.

An effective response to a crisis requires teams to lead and support recovery and response operations, and therefore there must be a clearly defined authority structure between the Crisis Management Team and business units. Business continuity plans can run smoothly and efficiently only when all employees and staff are fully briefed on the contents of the BCP and understand their roles and responsibilities in terms of hierarchy. This will then help to limit confusion and reduce the time it takes from the incident occurring, to recovery.

Practice Makes Perfect

An effective BCP, as with any successful strategy, requires practice, practice, and more practice. A common problem with BCPs is that once they are put together they are simply not rehearsed. An organisation can have as complex and thorough strategy, however unless it is regularly exercised, there is a significant risk that it simply won’t be effective in a real life incident.

BCPs should be regularly tested and appraised, and the plans’ accuracy, relevance and effectiveness should be assessed – only then can organisations fully understand which areas need improvement and which are not performing properly under the stress of a crisis. It must take into consideration the all-important psychological factors, such as participants’ performance, attitude, decisiveness, command, coordination, communication, and control.

The key for any organisation facing a crisis is to quickly identify the problem, and remediate it in as little time as possible, and with minimal risk to individuals’ safety, as well as minimal impact on customers, stakeholders and overall reputation. However, when it comes to business continuity the expression ‘you’re only as good as your people’ is a fundamental truth and needs to take into account the reality of human behaviour in responding to a crisis. Confidence is key and the ability for staff to make well thought out, strategic decisions will ultimately be a company’s saving grace.