If everything is working and you have a business continuity plan in place, is there anything left to worry about? Yes!
Near misses that do not result in interruption could still be critical warning signs that your business continuity is still too fragile.
ISO 22301, the international standard for business continuity, specifies that “organizations must determine what to measure and monitor for BC… and take action when necessary to address adverse trends or results before a non-conformity occurs”.
So, how do you set about identifying and acting on near misses, which in a way are non-events, making them even more challenging to spot?
Some near misses may be obvious.
For example, flood waters that rise to just below the level of your factory entrance before subsiding show how close your enterprise came to inundation. Others are harder to see. For instance, when a key account is being wooed by a competitor and crucial sales revenue is hanging by a thread.
Or when a key supplier is itself threatened by business discontinuity by internal factors not easily visible to external observers.
Awareness and accountability are two major planks in a platform to catch and deal effectively with near misses.
A Harvard Business Review article from 2011 discussed “how to avoid catastrophe”, noting that near misses preceded every disaster studied by the authors of the article, and that most of the near misses were ignored.
Their recommendations included making decision makers accountable for near misses and rewarding staff for exposing near misses, along with avoiding being fooled by near misses presented as successes.
Awareness comes from educating staff appropriately. For example, procurement departments should be taught how to assess suppliers for their resilience, as well as their technical specifications and prices.
Also of interest in the HBR article was a recommendation to be more alert to near misses, when the pressure is on in terms of time or cost.