If you are building a new business continuity program one of your first action items should be to meet with upper management (leadership) as early as possible.

  • Understand their goals
  • Set the tone
  • Begin communicating the extraordinary value you will provide the organization
  • Get them excited

Begin with a high-level discussion to level-set the scope and goals of the business resilience / continuity program. Make sure to clearly identify your value. On a business continuity level make sure they understand that you will keep the business going during any type of disruptive event. Products will continue to be shipped, security trades will be completed, customer calls will be taken. Work the phrases, ‘we will build redundancy ‘and ‘we will eliminate single points of failure that could seriously impact our ability to continue business‘ into your value statements. Be sure to read the post on importance of crafting your elevator pitch and why you should stay away from the acronyms.

Keep it simple and to the point. If upper management actively endorses your efforts, you will get cooperation from process owners and their direct reports. You will be gold!

Let management know that as you build the program you will gain a unique understanding of how the company works from end-to-end. This can lead to new opportunities to generate revenue and/or reduce expenses. Your willingness to go ‘above and beyond’ demonstrates you have initiative and want to help in any way you can. Management usually welcomes that type of team-oriented progressive thinking.

On the other hand, if upper management does not understand the true value you and business continuity bring to the organization they will not actively support you or they might think of you as an expense of doing business. Over time that can become a real problem. There will be negative cascades. Unfortunately, if upper management does not ‘get it’ you will most likely be burnt toast. You may have to eventually dust off your resume.

If upper management does not ‘get it’ then it is your duty to make it crystal clear to them that everyone’s job, especially theirs, will be in jeopardy when, not if, a disruptive event impacts your organization and you do not have a resilient and well tested business continuity program in place.

Learn upper management’s goals and expectations for the business continuity portion of the program. Notice their body language and inflections. Read between the lines. One of my favorite questions is, ‘what keeps you up at night?’  That question has proven to be worth its weight in gold to me.  Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Some of the things that keep them up at night will include:

  • Active shooter
  • Cyber related issues
  • Enterprise systems not being available
  • Critical hardware that is a single point of failure and cannot be easily replaced
  • Weather related threats
  • Union strikes
  • Disruptive technology trends. For example, Uber disrupted the taxi industry, Netflix disrupted Blockbuster and Amazon disrupted the brick-and-mortar retail world
  • Pandemic

Actively listen, listen and listen some more. Write down as many of their pain-points as possible while maintaining eye-contact. As soon as possible add the pain points to a checklist, database or spreadsheet. Stay organized. Soon you will have an ocean of information flowing through your desk. Staying organized will serve you well as you build your program. Do not let tasks slip through the cracks or you will get bitten in the end.

Tip – Schedule steering committee meetings with management regularly over the life of your program.  If all of the meetings are not required, it is ok to cancel. Management is busy so meet when it is important but cancel when you or they have nothing on the agenda. They will respect that.

Tip – During this type of interview meeting, whether it is with upper management, process owners or line workers, if you are speaking more than they are then you have a problem.  Dial it back. You will be happy you did. You never learn anything while you are speaking. The old saying ‘we have two ears and one mouth for a reason’, is so true.