By Tam Williams, KingsBridgeBCP:
In part one of 10 Steps to Tabletop Exercising Success we covered “Choosing the Correct Format,” “Updating Your Plan,” “Picking and Appropriate Scenario,” “Seeking Expertise,” and “Selecting Appropriate Facilitation.” In part two we’ll address the next five steps in achieving tabletop exercising success beginning with “Capture.”
A lot of great information gets shared during a tabletop exercise and you don’t want to miss any of it!
Here are 4 VERY simple steps to take:
- Large strategic issues where the plan may not be as solid as you thought.
- Smaller action items such as updating areas where information is no longer correct.
- Be sure to have both a facilitator and a scribe at all exercises. The facilitator will have enough work to do just running the meeting to take any notes, so be sure to have a single person assigned to simply capture.
- Provide lots of paper at all of the tables in the room so that participants can write down their thoughts. Even if they don’t have the opportunity to share them with the room, reviewing these notes after the fact can highlight issues that didn’t bubble to the surface during the exercise. You can even label the paper at the table by each phase of the exercise and encourage participants to take their notes on the corresponding sheets of paper as the exercise progresses.
Now of course in our current pandemic situation, small group tabletop exercises via videoconference are absolutely doable and you then have the option of recording the session as well as having participants write in their comments using the chat function (participants can also send these comments privately to the facilitator if they so choose).
7) Effective After-Action Review
You’ll want to cover two different aspects in your after-action review. First, there is how well the plan held up. Could there be any strategic areas to improve? Where all the teams prepared? Was the information in the plan current and sufficient to make the necessary decisions, etc.
Second, we need to evaluate how well the exercise itself was conducted. Was the scenario appropriate? Difficult enough but not too difficult? Was the room the correct size? Where the correct participants there? Did everyone find it was a good use of their time? Was the actual exercise process too painful or cumbersome for those involved? We do want them to come back for the next one!
8) Update the Plan and Address Action Items
Don’t overlook anything that you learn from the exercise. Any good tabletop exercise can unearth so much great information that needs to be at the tip of everyone’s tongue. Be sure that strategic gaps, missing information, outdated information, business processes are streamlined to be performed more efficiently or effectively. The moment the exercise is complete is the moment to start addressing these issues. If there are left over issues, you will be addressing them next year. This will leave your participants wondering what the point of all this is. A supercritical action plan at this point is to ensure that the plan gets updates and address all strategic issues.
9) Share Your Success
Share you success! Update your plan, address the action items and grab this valuable opportunity to share your success. Obviously, share with management, your board, key customers, auditors, etc., but it’s more important to share with your exercise participants.
One of the big challenges with business continuity is raising the profile of the plan and program. Some auditors have said they should be able to walk into an organization and ask any employee about a company’s business continuity plan and that employee should know that the plan exists and what their role is in that plan. Once your exercise is complete, seek out opportunities to raise its profile. Great places to begin sharing are internal newsletters, all hands meetings, or the corporate intranet to raise the profile of your program in the eyes of the employees, as well as management.
10) Make it Routine
Lastly, it’s important to make tabletop exercising and business continuity routine within an organization. This doesn’t mean having large-scale exercises on a monthly basis but there are other ways of injecting business continuity into the everyday without this level of formality.
One method is leverage evacuation drills:
- While departments are standing in the parking lot waiting for the green light to be let back inside, use this opportunity to target a department or two to see how prepared they are should they be told at that moment that they are not getting back in the building for a few weeks.
- If you have a company policy that laptops are to go home at the end of the workday, you can run friendly competitions to see which departments leave the least number of laptops behind on a given evening.
With these occasional exercises you can keep everyone in the business continuity frame of mind and encourage employees to see business continuity as more than just plan updates and the occasional tabletop exercise.
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