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Contingency Planning: Do You Feel Lucky?

Contingency Planning: Do You Feel Lucky?

A hilarious break in a busy day happened one day when staff members dropped off in my office a policy entitled “Undead Rising and Zombie Attack Situation.” The well-written policy stated its purpose is to provide guidelines for decision making to protect the safety of customers, staff and resources in the event of a rising dead or actual zombie emergency. It further describes mitigation, preparation, planning and response steps. The policy came complete with an educational poster on what to do in case of a Zombie apocalypse. While the thought of a zombie attack is easily dismissed, the contingency planning concept should not be taken for granted. The St. Patrick’s Day holiday makes it a great time to ask, “Do you feel lucky?” Now is a good time to consider building a disaster plan and/or if you have one already dust off the procedure binder and review the plan.

Flood, fires, work stoppages, disruptions, global and/or domestic financial and natural disasters can pose a very real threat to revenues if careful contingency plans are not put into place, reviewed and updated periodically. Contingency planning, also called scenario planning, continuity management, or disaster recovery planning takes into consideration all the possible disasters that can negatively impact the workplace. Geoffrey Wold author of four disaster recovery books tells us, “A disaster recovery plan is a comprehensive statement of consistent actions to be taken before, during and after a disaster. The plan should be documented and tested to ensure the continuity of operations and availability of critical resources in the event of a disaster.”

Here are four high level factors to consider in influencing organizational contingency planning:

1) Pull Your Head Out of the Sand: Set Aside the “It Won’t Happen to Us” Thinking. To be adequately ready for a disaster requires you to set aside all “it won’t happen to us” thinking and start answering “what if” questions. Ask what if questions such as, what if the nearby river floods? What if there is an earthquake? What if there is another financial disaster? What if most of our workforce retires suddenly? What if there is a work stoppage (including your suppliers)? What if there is a power outage what would happen to our company information that is electronically stored? The list of possible questions can go on. But it is important to honestly ask them so that you can get ahead of the possibilities should they occur.

2) Understand Your Organization and Obtain Buy-in: Understand how your organization is prepared to react to issues and what must occur. There are always those top management types who tend to assume it is all covered or no need to worry too much about something that may not occur. But people, resources and processes are always changing in dynamic fast moving organizations. The old disaster binder may be as outdated as the dust it collected over time. Engaging in periodic review of the disaster plan it a good way to ensure that it is up to date.

3) Develop Procedures: Develop exhaustive checklists and procedures in how to act when/if the answers to the probable “what if” questions as stated in the point above should occur. Identify all available resources both internal and external such as local government agencies to notify and enlist assistance should a disaster occur. Don’t forget to include all connection information for those resources.

4) Train and Educate: Once a good plan is developed it is important to train and educate everyone. The more educated people are on these matters the more they will tend to take quick and appropriate action, as opposed to panic.

While we are hopeful none of these disasters will occur, including zombie invasion, it is best to always be prepared for the “what if?” Go ahead go find that dusty disaster binder and get to work. A real workplace disaster has a way of differentiating between those who were well prepared from those who just counted on being lucky.

There are many resources available in contingency planning. This is meant to kick start conversation.  I will leave you with these questions: What is your experience in contingency planning? Is there a difference considerations between small, mid and large businesses?

About Tresha Moreland

Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite (www.hrcsuite.com). HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

One Comment


  1. While at Honda, while we were very good at contingency planning overall, such planning was mainly focused on our production operations. Following the events of 9/11 we dramatically strengthened this important function within North America. We developed a risk management committee that annually evaluated all potential risk areas and created specific project teams to develop contingency plans. We also created an emergency response program that covered a wide range of possible emergency situations from the avian bird flu to mass production interruptions. While many of our plans never needed to be activated, which was a positive, we were nevertheless prepared.

    However, a frequently overlooked side benefit to such a robust system was the associate skill and capability growth we developed internally by developing a wide array of contingency plans. They not only developed the mindset to look deep and wide, but also developed the skills to create very effective plans.

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