2010 has undoubtedly been another year of surprises. The prize for the biggest surprise probably goes to the disruption caused to European aviation by the volcanic ash cloud back in April; but you would probably also have got pretty good odds if you had bet on BP’s share price halving or, indeed, on 3 separate spells of severe winter weather in the UK. Despite increasingly sophisticated and formalised approaches to managing risk, our ability to predict the future does not seem to have improved and we continue to be surprised by events around us.
Setting aside these global events; at a local level many organisations (including us)have been surprised by incidents such as the failure of IT systems and loss of utilities; to name just a couple of the more common types of disruption. In fact, I have yet to encounter an organisation that has not displayed surprise when they experience a disruption – even though, at some level, we know that such things happen. Maybe we assume that these things happen only to other people?
It is vital that we fully acknowledge the fact that incidents will continue to happen despite our best efforts to mitigate risks. Recognising that we will continue to be surprised leads to a focus on flexible planning to deal with the consequences of a wide range of disruptions rather than preparing detailed, specific plans to deal with each identified threat. It is also a powerful justification for a key element of any Business Continuity programme: ongoing training and exercising.