Selling the Value of Resilience

Disruptive incidents of all shapes and sizes can affect us, from macro events, such as the recent spate of devastating earthquakes or the global financial crisis, through to micro events of localised utility disruption or an office fire, says Thomas Croall.

It is clear that disruptive incidents can debilitate the performance or even the very survival of our organisations.  At a time when balance sheets are under pressure, the value of business continuity, security and other risk disciplines could be seen as a discretionary spend which can all too easily fall off the budget.

Risk practitioners often expect ‘the business’ to sign up to being resilient against the unforeseen. Embedding a resilience culture often requires a stronger pitch when competing with day-to-day operational demands for time and resources. Many would argue that business continuity is a technical discipline, but for any technical discipline to deliver on the ground it must be complemented by the necessary soft skills.

I recently helped a friend prepare for a job interview. She had been asked to deliver an ‘elevator pitch’, the premise being that you are in a hypothetical elevator and you have the time it takes to travel from the ground to the 32nd floor to deliver a persuasive pitch concisely and coherently.

I have to deliver an elevator pitch at least once a day, and my standard pitch is usually customisable, with content that has developed organically over time. After helping my friend to refine her delivery, I wondered whether I should spend some more time practising my own pitch.

I like to think my persuasive skills are good, but there is always room for improvement. The soft skills for the job are just as – if not more – important than the technical skills. As an industry we should recognise that selling, influencing, persuading and negotiating skills form the core competencies of a business continuity, security or risk manager.

Many colleagues attempt to sell the value of resilience by relying solely on bold statements regarding large scale disasters. These can be helpful scene-setters, but without the next level of detail to set it into context, they may be doing more harm than good. The most common statement, or variation thereof is that:

“Fifty per cent of businesses that experience a disaster and which have no effective plans for recovery fail within the following 12 months.”

To the best of my knowledge there is no empirical research to support this claim. At one end of the scale, anecdotal or loose statements like this may damage your credibility or do little to influence an audience that assumes an ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality. Conversely, if the statement is too bold and not tempered within the right context, it can appear to be an insurmountable problem and the audience may recoil from further engagement or support.

EMBEDDING RESILIENCE

Risk communication issues surrounding global climate change are a good example. In order to set the right context and relate it to your organisation there is often more value in searching for case studies of past internal incidents or, if these are unavailable, contacting organisations of the same size, sector or geography to borrow from their experiences as a peer organisation.

Embedded resilience within our organisations is at the heart of the goal we are trying to achieve and, to achieve this, the support and awareness of all staff is integral. Drawing from the academic understanding of risk communications and refining our sales technique could be just what we need to achieve this goal.

Authored by a Needhams Consultant, published in Crisis Response Journal (Vol 6, Iss 2, page 8).