Module 7: Testing your Resilience Plan

The aim of this section is to provide an understanding and knowledge of the need and benefits of testing your plan. It is intended to answer such questions such as;

  • Why testing your plan is important?
  • How to test your plan?

Why Testing Your Plan is Important

Without testing your plan it is difficult to know if it is worth the paper it’s written on. It may not be possible to accurately recreate the scenes of devastation around an office space as a result of a flood, for instance – and it’s unlikely you’d want the expense of replacing every piece of furniture and hardware, but there are practicable ways you can reproduce some authentic conditions. Testing is relevant to you because:

A) You want to know that it works.

B) You want your staff to understand what is expected of them, making them more efficient should they be faced with the real thing.

C) You want to know what you need to work on.

Refining your plan through test exercises may significantly improve the chances of your business surviving a crisis, which makes the organisation and small disruption to the daily work routine a small price to pay.

How to Test Your Plan

Any test should include all members of staff. Each employee needs to understand their role in a given crisis, and to some extent you may choose to invite members of your supply chain to participate as well – even if it’s just a fire drill with your landlord and other companies in your office complex. Provide all employees a copy of your plan in advance with ample time to read through details of both the company strategy as a whole and their involvement in it. Business resilience is an opportunity for staff to become invested in what you are hoping to achieve and given a sense of responsibility.

Getting feedback on the plan from staff should take place both before and after any test to allow you to get the most out of the effort being put into a test. This is of particular importance if you feel the investment of time and resources into business resilience needs to be justified to managers and stakeholders.

The format for business resilience exercises can take one of three forms:

1. Seminars – typically held as inductions for new staff to bring them up to speed on the resilience plans within the business and their role within that. They can be run as lectures or as discussions, but the most important thing is to ensure that the plan is regularly moved forward and everyone is on the same page.

2. Table-top exercises – simulating crises in this way can work well as away of engaging staff and getting them to think more broadly about their role in a given situation. It can also help staff visualise how they will be expected to interact in the event of an emergency.

3. Live exercises – fire alarms, bomb evacuations or full-size recreations of disasters can be created, although this tends to be reserved for larger organisations. This is perhaps the best way of recreating the realism of a catastrophic event and can provide effective feedback on improvements that need to be made to plans.

How to Review the Test

Once the dust has settled on your test you’ll want to have a frank and open debrief to evaluate the success of the exercise and discuss the findings of everyone involved. Use this feedback to enhance the resilience plan and clearly communicate any changes to your staff. As we’ve already mentioned, this plan should be considered a living document that is always open to change and improvement. Scheduling periodic testing using such exercises as those outlined above should always form part of the continuous improvement of the resilience plan.

And then what? It’s time to implement your business resilience plan.

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