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16 Sep 2013

Is your Business Continuity Program “Paint by Numbers”?

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I have experience with quality management and Six Sigma.  Change, designed to gain efficiencies and better product/service quality has become a way of life in many industries.  Many of the organizations that I have worked for have benefitted from the questions “Why?” and “Is there a better way?”  ISO not only promotes standards and best practices, but also stresses continuous improvement.

BCM, Business Continuity, eBRPMany companies measure their Business Continuity Management program against ISO22301, or some other standard.  We may measure the result of our work against the standard; but do we do an adequate job of measuring the methods we use?  Do we look for process improvements?  Do we ask why we do things the way we do?  Do we ask if there is a better way?

Too often, corporate and government BCM programs follow designated “Best Practices” in sequential order like Paint-by-Numbers.  They continue to replicate what they learned to do years ago, or when they received their industry certification.  So they start with 1 and its designated color, then move to the 2’s with a second color and so on – until the picture – or the plan in this case – is complete.  Then start again and repeat the process.  It’s possible to get so focused on the Paint-by-Numbers approach that one may lose sight of what’s being created: the same picture with slight variations – over, and over and over.  A methodology is created that is slow, complex and loses traction to a point at which participants no longer care about the program.  (See “The 5 real reasons your employees don’t care about Business Continuity”. )

Most of us recognize there is always room for quality or efficiency improvements.  We see those needs around us constantly.  Not just in our jobs, but in our daily lives as well.  Look at email and now email from your smart phone: quality improvements in both business and personal lives.  Think of database technology, which provides a faster, more precise and efficient analysis of your data.  Of course counting on your fingers will work – but that’s not very efficient and can be prone to human error.

So why do so many in the Business Continuity industry cling to this Paint-by-Numbers approach?  Is it because of age demographics?  Is it because industry certification processes don’t push or reward innovation?  Or because we repeat statements like “It has always worked.”  “It’s a proven methodology.”-“It’s what our auditors want” – or “it’s what Management expects” as if they were mantras?  You may assume that some – or all – of these play a part in perpetuating the Paint-by-Numbers method without change, and with disregard for improvement or innovation.

Luckily, that is not always the case.  There are many companies and individuals pushing the edge of the envelope by providing new ideas and innovations in our industry.  But acceptance of these practices and technological innovations are slow; so slow that  they cause our industry to stagnate.  Everyone seems to get excited when a new standard is released (OK, maybe ‘excited’ is overstating the case a bit).  But few even raise an eyebrow when something that challenges the status quo comes along.  It took years for dependency mapping to gain general acceptance in the industry – and there are still those who see no need for it.

John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”


Ask yourself: Is there a better, more efficient way I can do this that will provide more value for my company or clients?  Don’t fall into the Paint-by-Numbers approach. Don’t repeat the same old approach that you have performed in the past.  Seek change .  Start with smaller pieces of your program – like a location or department.  Involve people in more dynamic group discussions.  Use the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle and apply lessons learned as you scale up to the next level.   This will demonstrate progress to both users and management, and will help keep them engaged.  Apply what John F. Kennedy said and look to the future.  Embrace change, technical innovations and enhancements to assure the resiliency of your organization before it’s too late – and your Paint-by-Numbers methods render you irrelevant.

David Gray

David, Director- Partner Development at eBRP, has over 30 years of experience in the Information Technology Services industry. His years of customer service experience and leading many quality initiatives, makes him question the status quo (norm). David passionately believes that leadership is about influencing change: in the industry, and for the better. His thoughts are expressed in his blogs and are meant to promote thought & new ideas to those who want to embrace change.