As a Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery consultant, my biggest challenge is getting my customers (and their senior management) to seriously consider the hazards posed by a pandemic / major health issue. They’ve heard the statistics, but find it difficult to accept that a pandemic-like incident could threaten their future. What would you suggest?
In the early days of business computing, it was difficult to convince management to invest in backup tape drives. After the first high impact data losses, computer professionals found it easy to sell backup tape drives, but few businesses made provisions for offsite storage of the backups. Again, high profile losses convinced management that such storage was vital. As business continuity planning entered the common vernacular before Y2K, off site redundancy was the “hard sell” for consultants. Now 9/11 has made offsite redundancy an industry standard.
Unfortunately it is human nature to believe in an inherent personal invulnerability. Those in charge of a business often transfer that feeling of invulnerability to the business. It is “blind spot” that predisposes businesses to all manner of mishap from the mundane to the spectacular. This “blind spot” is also the reason that hazard planning is not taken seriously despite overwhelming evidence.
To overcome the comfortable belief of invulnerability requires either inducing sufficient fear to overwhelm complacency or creating doubt regarding personal invulnerability. When a loss occurs in an industry, everyone in that industry experiences doubt about their invulnerability. The problem is that creating fear seldom helps the people creating the fear because with the discomfort of fear comes resentment for those that created the discomfort. Similarly, it is both difficult and unethical to create a “near miss” event in an industry.
The alternative to creating fear or doubt is to use incentive, mandate, regulation or legislation to generate “buy-in.”
1918 is four generations of business leaders in the past. No one in management today has personal experience with a level 6 pandemic event. No one in management today knows anyone with such pandemic experience. What little pandemic planning currently seen is a response either directly or indirectly to incentive, mandate, regulation or legislation. The issues that most spur pandemic planning deal with workforce and staffing regulations or the ability to deliver of products and services to customers. The key to increasing management “buy-in” for planning is to tie preparedness to compliance with existing incentives, mandates, regulations, or legislation.
For an example of tying preparedness to compliance, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy of the Homeland Security Presidential Directive white paper for healthcare.