Fooling Yourself: When BC Professionals Confuse Effort with Results

One mistake we see frequently is when organizations equate a high volume of work done in their business continuity programs with recoverability. Smart BC professionals know that becoming resilient requires maintaining a laser focus on achieved results. 

Related on BCMMETRICS: BCM by the Numbers: The Metrics That Matter Most

The point I want to make today is so basic I’m almost embarrassed to write about it. However, my daily experience as a consultant has shown that lack of awareness about this issue is so widespread, I’d be doing the community a disservice if I didn’t write about it.  

So here goes. 

In business continuity (as in sports, the military, and just about every other competitive and/or high-stakes area of life), effort does not equal results.  

Churning through a large volume of work does not equal results. 

Working yourself into a lather doing the wrong things will not protect your organization.  

Effort is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for a sound BC program. 

Fooling Themselves 

Over and over we see BC practitioners settle into a comfort zone regarding their activities. Usually this means focusing on volume of work completed: the number of BIAs churned out, the number of plans written, the number of exercises conducted.  

The average BC office keeps doing, over and over, the things they are comfortable doing, while persuading themselves, based on the big numbers of completed tasks they’re racking up, that they must be doing a good job and that their organization is protected. Any BC pros who are operating this way are fooling themselves. 

What Really Matters 

The fact is, at the end of the day the volume of work completed doesn’t mean a thing. Don’t get me wrong. BIAs, recovery plans, exercises, and the rest our tools are important. But they need to be seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself. 

What really matters is, can the organization be recovered? In my view, this is a binary proposition. The answer is either 1 or 0. Either the business can be recovered or it can’t. And unless it has been demonstrated that it can be recovered, then the BC program has not fulfilled its mission. 

Focusing on Results 

Focusing on volume of work done is easy. All you have to do is plod along like a burro. 

Focusing on results is hard, because at every step of the way you are faced by the possibility that your results might turn out to be inadequate, and then where are you? 

Well, then you have to figure out what’s wrong, devise a solution, and close the gap. And there’s nothing the least bit comfortable about being in that situation—except for the relatively few people whose make-up is such that they find such challenges stimulating rather than intimidating. 

Personally, I think anybody smart and driven enough to get a job in the BC office of a big-time company has got what it takes to rise to a challenge. Sometimes they just need a little nudge to recognize that’s what is required to do this job. (If you think you might fall in that category, consider yourself nudged.) 

Meaningful Metrics 

I have another blog on the site that discusses the difference between meaningless and meaningful metrics. If this topic resonates with you, you might find it worth looking at. It’s called, “BCM by the Numbers: The Metrics That Matter Most.”  

To give the gist of that blog, most metrics that measure the volume of work completed—the number of BIAs done, etc.—don’t mean very much. However, two metrics matter A LOT: the degree to which the organization is in compliance with its chosen BC standard and the amount of residual risk in its operations. 

Management Makes the Same Mistake 

I’ve been writing as though this problem is confined to the level of the front-line BCM staff. It isn’t. Often management also prefers to plod along, happily confusing effort with results. A lot of times, the senior leadership is allergic to any discussion of real problems and real gaps.  

Which just goes to show you that sometimes even an organization’s top leaders prefer living in a pleasant fantasy over grappling with a challenging reality. 

Of course, this approach only works for so long. Because as soon as there’s a serious disruption, the gaps in the BC program will be exposed and the organization can find itself brought to its knees—in a situation where a better prepared organization might shrug off the blow and continue or swiftly resume its critical operations. 

(We have a few blogs that give suggestions on gaining the support of management. If you’re interested in the subject, check out “How to Manage Management: 8 Tips to Help You Bring Your Bosses on Board” and “The Brush-Off: When Management Doesn’t Care About BCM.”) 

How to Do Better 

So what can an organization do to get past the bad habit of confusing effort with results? 

The first thing needed is a change in mentality. Become aware of the issue.  Develop a sense of urgency. Learn to reject the role of being a hamster in a wheel. Face reality. Start seeing the forest and not just the trees. Begin thinking strategically. Learn to tell meaningful metrics from meaningless ones and real work from busy work. 

In practical terms, the organization should conduct a current statement assessment and develop a roadmap. The former will give you an objective picture of where your program stands. The latter sets meaningful goals for your program and lays out a phased plan for achieving them. 

To learn more about CSAs, see “What’s Up, Doc? When and How to Perform a Current State Assessment.” For more about developing a road map, have a look at, “Get Out the Map: Why Your BCM Program Needs a Roadmap.” 

Attaining True Resilience 

Many BCM professionals have an unfortunate tendency to confuse effort with results. This tendency is often shared by senior management. At the end of the day, what really matters is not the volume of work completed but whether the business is recoverable.  

The organization that wants to attain true resilience will shift its mindset from focusing on the volume of work done toward facing reality, thinking strategically, and learning the difference between meaningless and meaningful metrics. It will also conduct a current state assessment to gain an objective understanding of the program’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a roadmap to close the critical gaps in its program within a designated timeframe. 

Further Reading 

For more information on meaningful BCM metrics and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, 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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