Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Practitioner's hats

Somewhere in my history I have a caricature of this scrivener hanging on to a sagging coat rack, a coat rack weighed down by my many job hats.

That was before enterprise risk management/business continuity/COOP (ERM/BC/COOP), too.

Except perhaps - and it is "if-fy"- for the steel pot (military helmet), all the hats in the drawing still are donned from time-to-time today.

For example, one of the chapeaus is a fedora with a PRESS card tucked into the ribbon encircling the hat.

What does "journalism" have to do with ERM/BC/COOP? Plenty.

A major portion of a practitioner's effort is gathering information from sundry sources.

The C*O, the VP of Whatever, many managers, the Rank-n-File, and even the mail room's summer intern.

Interview skills are critical. It's not just coming up with response-provoking questions, it's phrasing the queries so that the listener will comprehend or, if not, will ask for clarification.

Sometimes it means being able to "smooze" with people so they feel comfortable playing "20 Questions" with the practitioner and, hopefully, even volunteering information.

A good reporter knows how to phrase questions; more importantly, a good reporter knows how to listen to the answers and make certain what was heard was what was intended.

A little PR background also is helpful.

There's a good amount of "flag waving" involved in developing a plan. First the practitioner needs to get Top Management on board. If the Sponsor happens to be an enthusiastic supporter of the process, the practitioner is halfway home. If the Sponsor is anything less than enthusiastic, maybe the practitioner should start looking for a home somewhere else.

Once Top Management has signed on, the rest of the organization must come on board. (The best a practitioner can hope is about 95%; there always will be a curmudgeon in the crowd.)

A tech pubs background also is handy when it comes time to create The Deliverables.

Our practitioner is not just creating The Deliverables, he or she is creating deliverables for different audiences.

If the practitioner is particularly adept, in addition to deliverables targeted for different internal audiences - executives, managers, and the Rank-n-File - the documents will be designed for both internal (everything is available) and external ("sanitized") distribution.

All documents will be thoroughly indexed for rapid reference and sections will be designed for "pull-out, stand-alone" use; the folks in Finance, after all, probably don't care what the troops in InfoTech have to do to recover a system, so why burden them with those processes?

There are other hats a practitioner needs to have handy. Training, for one.

ERM/BC/COOP practitioners must be versatile. Developing a successful plan - and that deserves defining - is more than just sitting at a desk playing a solitary game of "What If?"

Plans cannot, should not, must not, be created in a vacuum.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity http://JohnGlennMBCI.com Planner @ JohnGlennMBCI.com

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