Do these 10 questions assess BCM awareness?

Here are ten (10) questions to assess employees’ business continuity management (BCM) awareness at a bank in Singapore.  My guiding principle in creating the questions was, ‘What should everyone in a company know about BCM?’

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 2.38.29 pmThe context: all employees of this bank must  complete each year an online awareness quiz on information security and BCM; 10 questions on infosec and 5 on BCM (so they’ll use 5 of my BCM questions each year).  Employees can take the quiz any time during a year; passing requires eleven (11) correct answers (a “gentleman’s C“). The bank has had BCPs for many years, but only one-third of the bank’s 200 employees are directly involved in the bank’s BCM program – annual plan reviews, continuity strategy decisions, annual recovery site exercises – as department heads or recovery team members. Two-thirds of the employees, then, may know nothing about BCM.

The bank had never assessed BCM awareness. Good BCM practice starts with a baseline assessment of  ’who knows what’, for which these questions were designed, followed by appropriate training for those who have BCM responsibilities. After the first round of assessment, the bank can decide on desired levels of awareness and competence for employees at strategic,  tactical and operational levels, as described in the BCI Good Practice Guidelines Module 2 Embedding Business Continuity, see pages 44-45).  For everyone else, this quiz may be all they get.




Why PSA’s don’t work

For preparedness messages, as in stand-up comedy, timing is everything.

After thousands of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) like “preparedness for individuals” (in English and in Spanish), “preparedness for business” and “preparedness for New York City,” and websites like Ready.gov, only 6% of Americans have done any preparation at all, and just 17% say they’re ”very prepared” for disasters. You might conclude, as the authors of this article did, that The Preparedness Message Isn’t Reaching the Public (from the November 2012 issue of EmergencyMgmt magazine).

PSA’s do reach lots of people, of course, but they don’t seem to motivate people to prepare. Why?

No one is motivated by gory pictures or finger-wagging lectures from public figures. I know I’m not – and I’m generally receptive to preparation messages because I make my living spreading them. In fact, images of leaking nuclear power plants, collapsed houses, flooded villages, even distraught victims don’t motivate us; they overwhelm us. ‘Well, it’s hopeless’, we think to ourselves, or ‘I can’t do anything about it anyway.

Yet thousands of people all over the world donate generously to relief efforts for people they’ve never met in other countries- in Haiti, in Japan, in Indonesia – out of desire to help after a disaster. They won’t prepare themselves in advance, but they’ll willingly help others afterward.




Crowd-sourcing haze response in Asia

To stop annual fires that threaten the health of millions of people in Southeast Asia, separate the science of location from the politics of responsibility

A few months ago smoke from illegal burning in Indonesia represented an immediate danger to life and health in Singapore, where I live. On Friday June 21, “haze” originating in Indonesia caused Singapore’s Pollutants Standard Index (PSI) to peg the meter at 401, an airborne contamination level at which it is not only hazardous, but genuinely difficult, to breathe.

I think life-threatening haze from illegal fires fits into any broad definition of the word “disaster.” Haze reaches Singapore most years in the dry season when land in Indonesia is cleared for farming, but the consequences hadn’t been so miserable since the “large-scale air quality disaster” of 1997. There is no reason to expect it will stop until its perpetrators (by whom I mean landowners of palm and pulpwood concessions, not just the farmers who do their bidding) are stopped. Resilience professionals – emergency managers, business continuity managers, risk managers, crisis managers, security managers – could help.

As a downwind resident and as a resilience professional, I really want to know exactly where the burning plot is located so someone can figure out who owns it and who is responsible for burning it illegally. Helpless in the haze, Singapore government agencies pressed officials in Indonesia to make their land-ownership maps public specifically for those purposes.




“I regret to inform you”…by text message

A human resources manager in Singapore told me during an exercise she planned to notify next-of-kin of  injured or deceased employees by text message (SMS). I was stunned. If there were a worse way to receive sensitive, painful information, I can’t imagine what it could be.

The rules for ‘breaking bad news’ are:
1. in person: never by phone, email or text
2. in time: anxious relatives want news – good or bad – as quickly as possible
3. in pairs whenever possible: a man and a woman are the best combination
4. in plain language: the facts, frankly and clearly
5. with compassion: as you would want your doctor to tell you.

Here is a page of tips for breaking bad news from Counsellor Suzanne Anderson MSW at SACAC in Singapore. You can learn more about death notification and practice doing it in Suzanne’s Crisis Communications & Crisis Intervention course.




Small business BCM: still pushing a rock uphill

Resilient Business NZ is one of many Sisyphean efforts to engage small businesses in contingency planning. A project by Welfare & Recovery Manager Jane Lodge of the Auckland (NZ) Council, Resilient Business NZ has simple menus, engaging photographs and international-standard BCM advice. But its initial self-evaluation questions include, ‘Does your business understand the Maximum Tolerable Period of Disruption?’ Gee, I hardly understand MTPD myself…

SisyphusMemories of two destructive earthquakes in New Zealand in the last two years may be enough to motivate owners of grocery stores, dry cleaners and coffee shops to prepare for disasters, but I doubt it. I hope Resilient Business NZ results in a measurable increase in preparation, because it’s a good idea, but it is basically another entreaty – like Canada’s B-Ready Now and the Singapore Business Federation’s National BCM Programme for SMEs – to small business owners to spend time and money they don’t have. A business owner isn’t looking for ways to spend money; she is looking for ways to make money (and aren’t we all?).

Small business BCM challenges the paradox of preparation: there is no return-on-investment in preparedness unless asteroids hit the planet or some other Extraordinarily Unlikely Event occurs. Resilient Business NZ tells business what they should do, but people don’t always do what they should do, or what their well-intentioned governments exhort them to do. They shouldn’t smoke, drink or eat supersized French fries, but they do anyway.




Forbes Kay Parsons Charrette 2022


A one-day exploration of ways to turn risks in the next ten years into opportunities. (Get it? 2012 + 10 = 2022) Forbes Kay Parsons Charrette (FKPC) is an accelerated planning workshop focused specifically on how to get a return on your investment in organizational and community resilience planning.

The FKPC 2022 is an innovative approach to resilience organized by Nathaniel Forbes (Singapore), Robert Kay (Australia) and David Parsons (Australia). As far as we know, no one’s ever organized a charrette on resilience risks and opportunities before. What’s a charrette? It is “an intense period of design activity…organizing thoughts from experts and users in a structured medium that is unrestricted and conducive to creativity and the development of myriad scenarios:’ From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charrette

FKPC 2022 will be held on Sunday, 24 June 2012, at the Ontario Bar Association in downtown Toronto, Canada. Admission to FKPC 2022 is CAD $395.00, including lunch. Participation is limited to seventy-five (75) people selected from the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

Sunday, 24 June is the Sunday before the World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM).




Turning risks into opportunities: FKP Charrette June 2012

A one-day workshop about turning risks into opportunities
with the theme “understanding future sources of human-induced disasters”
led by Nathaniel Forbes, Robert Kay and David Parsons

The Forbes Kay Parsons Charrette 2022 (FKPC) is a one-day exploration of ways to turn the risks of the next ten years into opportunities. (Get it? 2012 + 10 = 2022) FKPC  is an accelerated planning workshop focused specifically on how to get a return on your investment in organizational and community resilience planning.

The Forbes Kay Parsons Charrette 2022 is an innovative approach to resilience organized by Nathaniel Forbes (Singapore), Robert Kay (Australia) and David Parsons (Australia). As far as we know, no one’s ever organized a charrette on resilience risks and opportunities before.

What’s a charrette? It is “an intense period of design activity… organizing thoughts from experts and users in a structured medium that is unrestricted and conducive to creativity and the development of myriad scenarios.” From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charrette

FKPC 2022 will be held on Sunday, 24 June 2012, at the Ontario Bar Association in downtown Toronto, Canada. Admission to FKPC 2022 is CAD $395.00, including lunch.  Participation is limited to seventy-five (75) people selected from the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

Sunday, 24 June is the Sunday before the World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM).




‘My RTO is smaller than your RTO’

Everybody’s favourite pastime: comparing themselves with others! Complete the KPMG-Continuity Insights BCM Program Benchmarking survey and maybe win this Amazon Kindle Fire.

They say it takes twenty (20) minutes to complete; the deadline is 15 January 2012. To hear how your BCM program compares to everyone else’s, register for the Continuity Insights conference in Scottsdale, Arizona (USA) in April 2012. Or just read the May 2012 issue of Continuity Insights magazine. Here are the 2007 KPMG-CI Benchmarking Survey results, for comparison.




BCI-DRJ alliance: this is ‘thought leadership’?

So this is what passes for thought leadership in business continuity management (BCM) these days.

The Business Continuity Institute (BCI), a U.K. professional association with global ambitions and under-exploited footholds in the growth markets of Asia, Middle East and South America, goes looking for a partner in North America. After thoughtful deliberation about the future of BCM in the 21st century, and with all the time in the world to make a choice, they select…the Disaster Recovery Journal (DRJ), a 24-year old, American, family-owned magazine publisher and conference producer that must be the only BCM business in the world still calling it “disaster recovery,” the most-resented term in BCM profession.

BCI’s announcement says the alliance “aims to align thought leadership between [the] two organizations,” while DRJ’s press release says the alliance will “broaden and deepen discussions in…business continuity and related professions.”

That “thought leadership” bit caught my eye. When I first skimmed the headline, I mistakenly thought the BCI and the American professional association formerly-known-as the Disaster Recovery Institute International – DRII – had finally decided to stop pissing on each other’s shoes. Now, that would be news.




Conference victims of the world, unite!

Rise up and rebel against the presenters who oppress you! Join the Anti-PowerPoint Party, a grass-roots global movement dreamed up by Swiss software engineer and author Matthias Poehm. Be sure to check out his “Horror slide of the month”! You can “Like” the APPP Party on Facebook, too.

Columnist Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times wrote about the APPP in her column, “Anti-PowerPoint revolutionaries unite”. (The FT makes you register to read their stuff, but it is free.) She was brave to admit publicly she’d been “gang raped by PowerPoint slides more times than I can count.” I can’t wait for her podcast of that one.

Joining the APPP is free. And very much tongue-in-cheek. I joined. I’d send money, too, but it’s not quite clear how it would be used. Matthias is flogging his book, The PowerPoint Fallacy, for SGD 29.00 if you join the APPP, SGD 46.00 if you don’t. His marketing strategy is positively a work of genius, in my view, because so many bad presentations waste so many people’s time, all over the world.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln dedicated a Civil War cemetery in three minutes and just 268 words – and no slides – in his famous Gettysburg Address. 150 years later, American school children can still recite it from memory (I learned it in the 4th grade). Here’s Google’s Director of Research Peter Norvig‘s satirical version of that Gettysburg Address  as a Powerpoint presentation. Point: bad slides detract from good content.









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