How Do BCM Offices Fail? Let Us Count the Ways

BCM office fail

There are a lot of ways that business continuity programs go off track. Here are some of the main ones, together with a list of what successful programs do to keep rolling along.

Related on BCMMetrics: 7 Habits of a Good Business Continuity Manager

We are seeing an increase in the number of companies that recognize that a business continuity program is a must-have.

This is great, but it’s still the case that too many programs are floundering.

In on our experience working as BC consultants for firms of a range of sizes and industries, we see the same problems come up again and again.

If you’re just starting a program, do yourself a favor: Try not to make any of the mistakes listed below.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in managing an existing program, maybe the list will help you understand what’s holding you back.

Whatever you do, don’t despair. At the end, I’ll share a list of 10 things that successful BC teams always do, in order to help you focus on positive actions you can take to improve your program and better protect your organization.


Why do BC programs fail? Let us count the ways.

We counted 15 problems that frequently cause business continuity programs to break down:

  1. The BC manager lacks self-knowledge. BC managers often lack knowledge of their strengths and weakness. This stops them from capitalizing on their strengths and managing their weaknesses through self-improvement or delegating.
  2. Overemphasis on certifications. Many managers believe that BCM certifications are the be-all and end-all of success. They hire people with such certifications without verifying that they can actually execute. The key in hiring is not certifications, but the ability to do the job.
  3. Ignorance of compliance and residual risk.
  4. Too often, team members have no clue about where the program stands in terms of compliance and residual risk. These people are driving with their eyes closed.
  5. Unclear goals. There is no one single set of goals for the team to follow and accomplish.
  6. Lack of communication, planning, and roadmap. Many programs fall apart because the staff does not meet regularly, no one knows what anyone else is doing, and there is no strategic planning and no roadmap outlining key initiatives for the program.
  7. Trying to do everything at once. Too many programs try to “boil the ocean,” working on the entire organization versus targeting their efforts. They fail to identify high priority/high risk areas to heighten compliance and reduce risk in those areas. This is a guaranteed way to fritter away your energy.
  8. Staff spread too thin. At many poorly run programs, the staff attempts too many BCM initiatives that can never be finished and which bring no value to the program.
  9. Overspecialization. Many programs hire people who specialize in one aspect of BC practice. These people often end up with nothing to do and are unable to help out across other parts of the program.
  10. Putting too much faith in new tools. BC teams often come to believe that a new tool of some sort will solve all their problems. They buy the tool and their problems remain, only now they also have another function to administer.
  11. Tendency to make frequent, ill-considered changes. Many continuity managers are constantly making changes to their BCM methodology, causing rewrites that do nothing but waste time and confuse the stakeholders.
  12. Micromanagement. Many managers over-supervise their team members, not letting them make the mistakes necessary to learn and grow. This is like putting a plant in a closet and expecting it to flourish.
  13. Lack of cross-training of team members. Programs often get in trouble by not training the staff members to do a variety of jobs and tasks on the team. If a key person leaves, the whole program can come to a standstill.
  14. Ignorance of skillsets of team members. Too often, managers have little understanding of the skills of the team members. This prevents them from using their people to best advantage.
  15. Not seeking outside help when appropriate.
  16. Overambitious do-it-yourself projects have been the death of many promising BC teams. Programs often get in trouble by trying to tackle things that are best left for outside specialists.

    They get bogged down in tasks that a consultant could handle swiftly and efficiently.
  17. Hiding from senior management. If a team has reached this stage, things must be pretty bad already. BC leaders hide from the top management because they don’t want them to find out how bad things are. This can make a bad thing worse by putting off a needed reckoning.

Think of these as the hazards along the roadway. Make every effort to avoid them, if you want you and your team to succeed and for your company to thrive.


Those are the hazards to avoid. What are the positive actions that successful managers take to make their programs thrive? Here are 10 of the most important:

  1. Organized leadership. The team leader manages himself or herself, and the office’s daily operations, in a highly organized and productive manner.
  2. Clear-eyed about risk and compliance. The team manager maintains a clear understanding of where the program stands in terms of compliance and residual risk by assessing them on a regular basis. The manager ensures the program stays aligned with its chosen BCM standard.
  3. Strategic plan and roadmap. The team manager has a strategic plan and roadmap that are based on the state of compliance and residual risk.
  4. Targeted effort. The team manager identifies a small number of key initiatives (three to five) that can be accomplished by the team to bring the greatest improvement in compliance and reduction in risk.
  5. Good communication among team members. The team meets on a regular basis to review where things stand, identify action items to resolve, and congratulate the members on their successes.
  6. Versatile employees. The team manager hires the right mix of people to get the job done, leaning toward hires that are cross-functional, multi-talented, and not afraid to work in the trenches.
  7. Keeping it simple. The team manager focuses on simplicity in their BCM methodology and approach.
  8. Willingness to delegate. The team manager makes it a priority to delegate. This allows team members to be productive, learn, and gain experience, strengthening them and improving the team.
  9. Prepared for succession. The team manager cross-trains in order to ensure people are available to succeed to open roles when vacancies occur.
  10. Ongoing assessments. The team manager continually assesses compliance, risk, and team performance to update and execute roadmaps.


There are a dizzying number of ways business continuity programs can get in trouble.

But the steps to success are simple and well-known.

By avoiding the hazards listed above, and following the example of the most effective BC programs, you can excel as a business continuity manager, benefiting yourself, your team, and your company.


For more information on this and other hot topics in business continuity, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

Michael Herrera is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA. In his role, Michael provides global leadership to the entire set of industry practices and horizontal capabilities within MHA. Under his leadership, MHA has become a leading provider of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services to organizations on a global level. He is also the founder of BCMMETRICS, a leading cloud based tool designed to assess business continuity compliance and residual risk. Michael is a well-known and sought after speaker on Business Continuity issues at local and national contingency planner chapter meetings and conferences. Prior to founding MHA, he was a Regional VP for Bank of America, where he was responsible for Business Continuity across the southwest region.

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