Disruption – Anticipating the Unexpected

It is sometimes said that life is never a straight line – a handy reminder that unexpected events can intervene and, if not anticipated, result in disruption and outcomes that diverge from those assumed or intended.

It is one thing for Deciders to recognise the potential for things to change, but quite another to recognise vulnerability to such changes and the potential for resulting disruption.

Skilled Deciders:

  • see the opportunity when making decisions to lessen vulnerability to change;
  • seek and exploit the opportunities that can result from disruption; and
  • combine the same skills needed to defend disruption with lateral thinking to cause disruption in order to exploit the vulnerability of others to gain an advantage.

Business Continuity Management

‘Business Continuity Management’ (BCM) does not, as the name might suggest, provide comprehensive advice as to what is needed for a business to ‘continue’. 

Ensuring an organisation ‘continues’ involves all elements of management and governance. For a manufacturing business, for example, this involves strategy, finance, market research, product design, staff selection and training, machinery and premises, supply and sales chains, quality systems, debt recovery, tax liability, and so on.

By contrast, the misleading expression BCM (and its associated tortuous jargon) was invented as a catchy label for a narrow protocol intended only to provide a blueprint for responding to disruption should it occur.

Even then, the limited aim of BCM was to reduce the impact of the disruptive event and to return to the pre-disruption state as soon as possible. Laudable as those motives might have been, the effect has been to narrow thinking about vulnerability and responding to disruption.

BCM also imposes time-consuming rigidities and methods which, silo-like, sit apart from mainstream activities and decision-making. It invokes a complex and unnatural jargon and, through its very name, creates a false sense of security that by jumping through the BCM hoops, the business is assured that it will somehow ‘continue’[1].

However, the limited broad aims of BCM are most efficiently achieved via conventional decision-making.

Informed application of the universal decision-making method already anticipates disruption scenarios, analyses the possibility of disruptive effects and responds as appropriate in the finalisation of decisions. As necessary, secondary components of decisions will include contingency arrangements (resources, plans, maintenance, exercising, training and testing) . There is simply no need for a restrictive and distracting BCM edifice.

Furthermore, in the increasingly dynamic world in which most organisations operate, a mindset aimed at returning to things as they were might be the very last thing to aspire to. 

Conversely, a carpe diem (seize the day) approach offers a better strategy than the more Maginot Line[2] mentality of BCM.

[1] This is an example of how, once reduced to a three-letter acronym, confected expressions such as BCM can variously mislead and suspend normal thinking.

[2] The Maginot Line comprised heavy defensive fortifications built in the 1930s in eastern France to funnel any future German invasion to the west in the belief that this could be countered. The overall strategy was unable to respond to the force and speed of the invasion when it came. Although the line itself served its purpose, the notion of a ‘Maginot Line mentality’ has since become a metaphor for false senses of security, and the perils of inflexible strategies and assumptions.