What is the core of what I do?

The turmoils of turning 50 felt like I had grabbed the stem of my life’s hour glass and flipped it on end. Conscious of the falling grains of time I have found myself asking, “What is at the core of what I do?”, sometimes there is the variant, “What have I done for the greatest good?”.

On the odd night the questions get a bit harder. For example, what is the point of spending twenty five years involved with disaster management? What problem does my particular solution solve or do I just contribute to the white noise of general management? Why is it that disasters still happen?

A great deal of my activities have been spent communicating what risk might mean to an organization. Rather than just list activities at risk, I find out what could really cause the business loss, if you like the, “So What?” question. With every tool at my disposal from impact analyses, system design, training, scenario planning, exercising, coaching and mentoring, I aim to help my client understand the realistic likelihood and nature of the impact of threats on them as individuals, company officers, projects and organisations.

Somebody suggested to me last week that in todays organisations where so much has been outsourced or contracted out, a key function of the modern corporation is to risk manage all the work they are doing. He’s not wrong and more companies are doing it. Commerce and the sheepish public sector are treading reluctantly in their footsteps and seem to be growing in the false belief their risks have also been outsourced or contracted out. Newsflash, you can’t outsource responsibility for managing risk.

As I mentioned, we get more contemplative as we get older. Organizations however, are not the same. Some, overpopulated by a community of LinkedIn career clamberers, have lost all organizational memory in the slashing of budgets and resources to pay for the next round of projects and shiny things. The resultant organizational dementia can continue for years, stripping out knowledge and vitality as career climbers capture their stays, one thumb drive at a time.

I have a reputation for having a bull dog style bite that does not let go of nagging doubts and fears. I keep my attention on any loose thread or vagary until it is resolved to the clients satisfaction. It is a constant creative battle to find the approach, language, tools and tone to dismantle what may be a precarious dam of complacency and replace it with clear, simple and rehearsed measures to manage the risks being faced. Fighting this creative battle is the core of what I do.

Business Resilience rebirth 2017: this time it’s personnel, by Louis Cypher

Anyone with the misfortune to attend a Business continuity conference in recent months will have been subjected to a vaguely emetic lecture on the transformation of Business Continuity into the far more dynamic Business Resilience. You will note that the cadaverous 50-something never-was delivering this call to action looks a lot like a grey version of the  bloke that announced the transformation from ITDR into business continuity 20 years ago. The only subtle difference is that he has now wasted two decades of his life, most of his clients’ time, and has at least 8 letters in his post- nomenclature that mean precisely f*** all. So here we are on the cusp of a revolution, and it is worth thinking about what got us here. 
In the olden days the continuity world was all about ITDR. That’s “D” for disaster.  Now call me an old drama queen, but Fukashima was a disaster, and so was 9/11. But unless you work at the extreme end of socially useless trading, is losing temporary access to a few IT services a disaster? It might be for some poor soul who gets it in the neck over in helpdesk; but don’t worry too much, he doesn’t speak English anyway.  So ITDR died, not because storage costs tailed to zero and everyone with any sense went into the cloud years ago, but mainly because the guys running the business thought the name was ridiculous. It’s not a disaster any more than “surfing” isn’t surfing – you are just sitting in your bedroom typing. And if your job is so dull you need to use melodramatic terminology to make it sound exciting, then you deserve to be stuck in a windowless basement office with three other guys laughing like the Smash potato advert and having a BO competition. Just to help a bit, the easiest thing to do next time you have a computing glitch is tell all users to delete system32.exe – that should sort it. 
Then some bright spark realised that most people are not running a datacentre, they are running a business. So rather than making sure you have cost effective asynchronous backup, you might be better devoting some time to making sure you can actually make some money. And thus business continuity was born; and suddenly anyone, qualified or not, could get in on the act. The official Dictionary of Business Continuity Management terms is 48 pages long; and close inspection tells you that not one of them has been invented for any reason other than to make it sound like a complex black art. So after millions of management consultant hours, business continuity is finally on its last legs, and not just because someone realised that no business ever in the history of business has ever been prevented from going out of business by a business continuity plan, but because the Cybersecurity guy is still getting paid more than you , and no one, not even Janet from accounts, wants to sleep with you. 
So from now on, it’s all about Resilience; which is different because it is on the board agenda. I know this because I went to listen to a talk about how to get Business Resilience on the Board agenda. From a bloke that didn’t appear to understand the difference between a board member and the executive committee, had probably never spoken to anyone from either, but had a nice tie. But as I decided to get quite pissed at lunch after a morning workshop on how to develop KPIs for resilience (“folks, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!”. T**t), it is entirely possible I misheard.  What I do know is that the centre of excellence that is the BCI will have to change its name to get rid of the continuity bit, and I for one think the Business Resilience Association (BRA) might fit the bill, because the place is clearly full of complete ti(Ed: article ends  due to lack of space)


As I waited for my coffee on my morning Vancouver commute to the office I reflected on recent cold temperatures and the number of homeless people on the streets. Walking just a bit beyond Gastown, the number of semi permanent street side cardboard and umbrella ‘homes’ of the homeless made me think of the daunting challenges such a life brings. When I looked at the different faces I thought of their parents and families, of Christmas Past and of the huge struggles everyone faces from time to time.

Living so close to the cutting edge of life’s blade, whatever your edge is, can make us vulnerable. When an unexpected event happens, we can move unexpectedly closer to the sharp blade. The distance between society’s vulnerable and life’s edge is often so close that an unexpected event, such as a prolonged cold snap, or worse major disaster will have a devastating impact.

Arriving at work, the World Bank Group’s paper entitled “Unbreakable - Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters” landed in my inbox. Fresh from my morning coffee contemplations, I was struck by one of the points raised about half way through. The report was talking about the benefits of disaster risk reduction projects. As someone who has written many proposals on this subject I was fascinated to learn how the World Bank Group was pitching projects to ensure nothing happens!

Out of 117 countries involved in the research, the paper, from a financial organization, suggests losses to peoples well being following disaster are far higher than just asset losses. The impact of disasters on peoples well being is put as twice that of material losses. When you don’t have physical assets, perhaps you only have your own well being to lose, which is some of what I saw this morning.

Apparently, the impact of spending money targeted at protecting the assets of the top 80% of a population will yield only half the well being of what could be delivered by targeting the same money at the poor and vulnerable. Thats an interesting thought. If we want to reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods, health and everything else, our emphasis should be to focus on the well being of the vulnerable.

As a sentimental close, and taking some seasonal license with this paper, if you are still shopping consider this, a gift of well being for the vulnerable will yield more than twice the benefit of a glitzy gift to a wealthy friend (#creatememoriesnotgarbage). Peoples well being is more important than any other treasure.