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Are Your COOP Plans on Vacation?

The summer season is beginning in America and that can only mean the joys of workforce planning during the vacation season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With the additional benefit of federal government furloughs, there are numerous other challenges, including the increase in significant weather throughout the U.S. and the possibility of an unexpected surprise domestically. With these factors in mind, have you considered your plans for continuity of operations (COOP) plans given the reduced expertise present in your organization? Many bosses would probably argue to end all vacation, but in the age of reduced workforces and remote work environments having all of your boots on the ground is not a possibility.
      Organizational memory and expertise, along with social capital, is held in the minds of the employees in any organization. Even with effective knowledge management and standard operating procedures there are always those few people who can “just make things happen.” When I worked in a manufacturing firm, there was an administrative person who had worked with the company for nearly 30 years and took a month of vacation near Christmas to visit grandchildren. Whenever she left town, there were always tasks that fell off the radar because she quietly made things happen behind the scenes. After years of enduring these breaks in productivity, an enterprising HR staffer cataloged her tasks over a period of a month to prevent any breakdown in the machine, thereby plugging the knowledge gap. In an emergency, what if your lead on any given task is absent due to a summer fishing trip? A red team could help prepare and develop the organizational staff to be ready for these unexpected surprises
      What is the plan if your go-to type-A leader is on vacation and crisis presents itself to a junior staff member and an intern?

  1. Plan: Conduct planning exercises where primary employees are not able to be the decision makers in a crisis planning session, have their assistant or a different individual conduct the planning and execution of a crisis action plan.
  2. Manage Your Knowledge: “Knowing is half the battle,” and leaders in organizations need to know what their employees do. Likewise, it would be pretty helpful to know what the boss does in the event he or she is out of the office when a tornado hits the building. It is vital to have a playbook whether operating in normal conditions or crisis conditions. Plan, train, and refine these standard operating procedures so that non-expert employees have a guideline to base a decision on in the event of a time sensitive crisis. Red teams need to be the voice of reality in COOP exercises and crisis situations. Surprisingly, it is important to remind people in a crisis that checklists and SOPs are guides to a hypothetical solution. Given the details and circumstances of an actual event, they may not present an appropriate solution but provide a framework for completing the decision making process.
  3. Rehearse: In a world of uncertainty, practicing time sensitive decision making builds the skills necessary to perform in a crisis. Plan a COOP exercise during a furlough Friday in a federal or military workforce or a fire drill in a civilian work place. In the summer with flex scheduling or liberal leave policies, how long would it take to account for all employees at a safety rally point?

      Keep RTJ Red Teaming law #17 in mind this summer,1 as less senior staffers watch as those with more vacation time enjoy the fruits of their labor for it may be one of these junior employees that has to make a critical decision in a crisis. So “Bossman,” is your organization ready for you to take your vacation?

  1. RTJ Red Teaming Law #17: The superior red teamer learns how things work in the real world, not just how they work on a diagram or presentation slide. The most useful insights often come from the bottom of the org chart. The higher up the org you go, the broader the view but the more filtered the information. []

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