Friday, June 6, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: People and British Airways

I'm a member of the Business Continuity Institute, "The BCI." One of the membership benefits is "Continuity," a very slick (in the best sense) 6-times-a-year magazine.

I opened the May issue the other day and on Page 1 I read two articles, one by the magazine's editor (Nigel Allen) and one by the BCI chair (Chris Green).

Putting people into the plan by Mr. Green gave me a great deal of satisfaction.


I have been preaching for some time (as in "years") that "an organization's most important resource is its people."

My Spouse learned, as an MBA candidate, that "people are a renewable resource." That is, I gather, the MBA mentality. (I didn't write that The Spouse agreed with the opinion.)

Mr. Green apparently was pleased that the "buzz phrase" heard at the recent Business Continuity Expo "seemed to be 'the human aspects of business continuity'." But he also expressed amazement, as do I, that organizations are just now catching on to this idea.

"I find it difficult to understand how this (organizations only now recognizing the importance of people) can be the case, Surely people are the very bedrock upon which organisations are built and as such should be an integral component of any continuity strategy."

Bravo! Mr. Allen.

Only as good as your last response by Mr. Green gives a brief overview of the latest British Airways (BA) faux pas, "The Terminal 5 Incident."

BA has had its problems recently.

First it was the caterer strike (2005), which spread to baggage handlers and severely inconvenienced passengers.

Now the problem with the new terminal.

Mr. Green wrote that "according to BA, it (BA) conducted six months of 'proving trials' in the run-up to the opening." That certainly is to the airline's credit.

But it failed to avoid the disaster that came with opening day.

Like an MBA, BA has a mindset about business continuity, and it seems to be "disasters can't be avoided."

I had an exchange, "warm" but polite, with a Business Continuity person at BA following the caterer/baggage handler strike; his take: there was nothing BA could have done to avoid or mitigate the risk even though the airline knew there was dissension in the caterer's ranks.

BA did have "disaster recovery" in both cases, but the events damaged both BA's reputation and its financial well-being.

According to the thisismoney Web site, the caterer's strike cost BA some GBP45 million (US$88,299,000/Euro 70,488,000).

Mr. Green, correctly, cautions that "while we look at BA, let's also look inwards; how would your incident team have coped?"

Mr. Green has, perhaps inadvertently, stumbled upon the problem which is the disaster recovery mentality: "how would your incident team have coped?" That's a good question, but the better question is "How would your ERM team plan to identify and avoid or mitigate risks?"

Yes, I understand BA exercised the terminal's operations, but it wasn't prepared for the unexpected.

As Mr. Green wrote: "In the end, the problem has occurred and BA has dealt with it. An incident review must occur. What obvious oversights happened, and what assumptions were made? What must BA do differently in the future? What can BA learn, and what can it change for the future?"

Might I suggest that BA - and all organizations - should think proactively rather than reactively; consider all the risks and then plan for them and "the ubiquitous other" that always is a threat.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

No comments: