How to Get Business Units to Take Ownership of Their BCM Programs

One challenge familiar to every business continuity management professional is dealing with the business units’ attitude that business continuity is the BCM office’s responsibility, not theirs. Getting the business units to take ownership of their BCM activities is a critical step for any organization that wishes to achieve true resiliency. 

 

The Concept of Ownership 

Until recently, the word ownership meant having possession and control of some kind of resource. In the past few decades, the word has acquired an additional meaning—namely, a person’s feeling of having a stake in some enterprise and taking responsibility for the outcome. 

A preschool teacher might talk about teaching their students to take ownership of their hands and feet. Parents of a teenager might strive to get their child to take ownership of his or her homework. And a doctor might seek to get a patient to take ownership of his or her health. 

In business culture, ownership is about taking responsibility for performing one’s job well and for the well-being and success of the organization overall. 

Ownership and Business Continuity

When it comes to working with business units (e.g., accounting, production, customer service, etc.) to develop their BCM programs, we at MHA Consulting commonly see two different responses to the issue of taking ownership.  

The people in the business units typically demonstrate great ownership when it comes to what they think of as the core activities of their department. However, when it comes to their department’s BCM programs and activities, their attitude tends to be that business continuity is not their responsibility; it’s that of the BCM office.  

Many negative things follow from this attitude. The main one is the belief that any time the department spends working on business impact analyses (BIAs), performing threat and risk assessments (TRAs), writing BCM plans, or participating in BCM exercises is time wasted. Departmental staff tend to think that in working on BC tasks, they are making a sacrifice to help another department do its job.  

The Consequences of Refusing Ownership 

The attitude described above commonly leads to resentment, feelings of annoyance, and half-hearted efforts on the part of the business unit toward the BCM office and activities.  

However, the consequences of such an attitude go well beyond emotions. When the business units approach their BCM work in a grudging spirit, the result is low-quality work product through every phase of the BC cycle.  

This weakens the BCM program at every level, undercutting the organization’s preparedness and raising the likely impact from any event (whether it’s related to a pandemic, supply chain issue, cyberattack, weather event, incident of workplace violence, power outage, or whatever it might be).  

Identifying A Better Approach 

There is a different approach that would work better for everyone involved and that is for the business units to take ownership of their BCM program elements and activities.  

Once the business units recognize the importance of BCM for the whole organization and accept responsibility for doing a good job at it, the doors to greater departmental and organizational resilience are opened. 

Getting the Business Units to Take Ownership of BCM 

Unfortunately, there is no magic spell that can be used to get a business unit to take ownership of its BCM activities. What’s required is to implement a shift in the culture of the organization. This will likely require an ongoing educational effort on the part of the BCM office.  

There are three levels where the new attitude needs to take root. First, the BCM office itself needs to understand this and truly comprehend and believe it. This takes confidence and self-belief. Many BCM professionals secretly see themselves as nags whose job requires them to bother the cool kids with their BIA questionnaires and recovery exercises.  

They might instead try thinking of themselves as being in a role analogous to that of teachers, parents, or doctors; their job is to help the departments accept ownership of and grow into their rightful responsibilities for their BC planning and exercises.  

Second, management needs to be educated about this issue—and pressed to give the business units time to carry out their BCM responsibilities in a conscientious manner. 

Third, the business units themselves need to be brought on board. 

Sometimes just saying it in plain English can work wonders. For example, you might say to a department: “You own the plans. You own the preparations. Getting prepared is not taking you away from doing your job. Being prepared is part of your job. My job is to help you get everything together, but ultimately this is on you.” 

You might then explain that having a sound departmental BCM program might make the difference, the next time the organization experiences some kind of event, in whether the department can keep on working or is unable to work, impacting all the people down the line who are depending on it. 

Most BCM offices could do more than they are currently doing in terms of educating the people in the departments about what BC is, why it’s important, and what the workers’ role in it is. Even a five-minute presentation or easy basic training on BC, given at departmental meetings, could help in shifting the culture in the right direction. 

As we’ve written before, the goal is to create a culture of continuity

Ownership in Action 

If and when the business departments at your organization start assuming an ownership attitude toward BCM, the signs will be unmistakable. The departments will start taking the initiative in reviewing plans and conducting exercises. They will come to you to seek your help in improving their preparations. They will begin showing an independent commitment toward doing BCM right. These are the signs of an ownership attitude in action. 

Opening the Door Toward True Resilience 

Ownership in business today means taking personal responsibility for doing an excellent job and striving to promote the success of the organization overall. Most business departments demonstrate great ownership when it comes to what they believe are the core activities of their unit. Unfortunately, they tend to regard business continuity as the BCM office’s responsibility, not theirs—an attitude that has negative consequences for all of their BCM-related activities.  

Getting the business units to take ownership of their BCM activities opens the door toward true resilience at an organization. When the BCM office succeeds in getting the business units to adopt an ownership attitude toward BCM, the change is good for the BCM team, great for the departments, and of significant long-term value to the organization and its shareholders. 

Further Reading

For more information on creating a culture of continuity and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS: 

 

About
Richard Long
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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