Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Holidays as risk


For most people, holidays are a time away from the workplace.

A time to focus on things other than "The Job."

For the risk management practitioner, holidays are a risk.

Low level risks

Some risks are have a relatively low level impact if - rather "when" - they occur.

The most frequently occurring risk is absence of decision makers.

Absence of crucial personnel - and this can be a person on a production line or a call center staffer during a busy time -also must concern the risk watcher.

Fortunately, these risks are relatively easy to avoid.

In two words: Cross Training.

Practitioners know that every critical function in a response program must - not "should," but "must" - have both a primary and an alternate responder.

Even in the best of times, with no holidays in sight, people get sick, they take time to attend to relatives, they go to conferences and professional courses, and they go on vacation.

On the truly negative side, there are layoffs and dismissals-for-cause.

Practitioners don't need to insist that management come up with a succession plan - although management should do this, if only to keep the organization's clients confident that the organization will muddle along even sans the incumbent C*O.

Practitioners need to convince management that, while no one expects anything untoward to happen to them, they need to groom others to fill in for them when they vacation or are otherwise absent.

The "heir apparent," even if only appointed on a temporary basis, must have

  • the confidence of the about-to-be-absent manager

  • sufficient self-confidence to make decisions

and the manager's decision must be known to "all hands," both up and down the personnel ladder.

It helps if the Most Senior Executive has a formal job description of some type.

The key to the success of selling the idea to everyone reporting (directly or indirectly) to the Top Executive and Board is for the Top Executive to get on board

Note that in all the foregoing, the term "succession plan" has generally been ignored.

Practitioners need to be included in all critical projects to assure that the project manager builds in time for holiday interruptions. This adds a burden on the practitioner: he or she must be aware of all holidays that might reduce the work force and delay project completion. This can be especially challenging for multi-national organizations' planners.

High level risks

Fortunately, risks I term as "high level" are exceedingly rare.

They are "high level" because of the impact they can have on the organization.

High level risks often are holiday-related.

    The Yom Kippur War.

    Pearl Harbor - while not on Christmas, the country already was "winding down" for the holiday.

National and religious holidays often are preferred dates for attacks against defined groups. Occasionally, an attack will be scheduled on the attackers' holiday.

Natural events such as earthquakes, floods, tornados and the like are no respecters of an organization's staffing abilities and can occur almost anytime.

Burglars find holidays a good time to strike - staffs are reduced or facilities closed, making access less difficult. No matter what the intruders are after, they have a better chance of success.

Admittedly, cross training won't help here. Maintaining an increased level of alertness by security personnel will help. The question to ask: is Security - be it in house or vendor-provided - able to meet the staffing requirements; is Security protected against personnel absences?

But again, the likelihood of an event is less likely than the absence of a needed employee.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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