Posts Tagged ‘business continuity’

By Richard Martin
This week I want to elaborate more on the concept of Readiness Phases and Readiness States, as these provide the essential framework for forecasting, activation, and response of emergency and business continuity services (of both public and private sectors), as well as contingency plans, and other measures. These can be extended to competitive and other strategic situations, but for now, I want to focus on threats/risks to life, limb, and materiel. This knowledge is sufficiently important that it should be disseminated as widely as possible, so please feel free to do so.
Emergency and Business Continuity planning and operations are managed in three phases:

1. Phase 1 – Preparedness. The focus of this phase is the coordination of plans and procedures. This phase is activated on a continuous basis. Emergency measures and business continuity plans are developed and regularly reviewed through the incorporation of lessons learned from plan activation, training exercises, and learning from similar experiences in other organizations and regions. Physical preparedness of alternate sites, emergency power, emergency supplies, etc. are regularly verified. Operationally critical employees are identified, briefed and trained to respond to a disruptive event. There are three readiness levels, defined as:

  • Normal Readiness: Routine governance and activities are in effect. Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) remain unstaffed but ready for activation. Emergency Management Teams (EMT) meet as required to coordinate and conduct planning and readiness activities. Emergency and Business Continuity planning and readiness measures follow regular planning cycles (for example annual business planning and budgeting processes).
  • Medium Readiness: Medium readiness can be activated at any level of an organization by appropriate, pre-designated authorities based on pre-set criteria such as survival, public service, safety, public health, public order or organizational triggers, directives or advisories. EOCs are activated to a 12/7 posture supplemented with on call personnel outside of these hours. EMTs are activated and meet on declaration of Medium Readiness and at least once a week thereafter. Key tasks of EMTs include coordinating internal communications and preparing or updating plans and directives for future response and recovery options. Heightened security measures may also be in effect if required.
  • High Readiness: High Readiness declaration and triggers are as for Medium Readiness. A local or regional emergency demanding an immediate or delayed response can also lead to a declaration of High Readiness by the designated authority for that location or region. EOCs are augmented to full 24/7 staffing and provide daily (or more frequent) Situation Reports and daily or twice daily situational awareness briefings to the designated authorities. EMTs meet daily (or more frequently, as needed) in their respective EOCs. Heightened security measures may also be in effect.

2. Phase 2 – Response. The focus of this phase is the safety and security of people. This phase is activated by appropriate authorities at relevant organizational levels upon declaration of an emergency involving the occurrence or warning of an imminent disruptive event. Designated emergency/business continuity authorities and EMTs establish and maintain situational awareness while at the same time activating immediate safety and security measures to protect all personnel, assets, and/or individuals or populations under their care or responsibility. Essential elements of information are communicated to staff, the public, stakeholders, contractors, vendors, etc. Designated authorities ensure the conduct of damage assessments (physical, operational, personnel, or cost) of the facilities, systems, networks and assets and this is communicated to all members of the EMT, higher authorities, critical services managers, and critical support function managers. Designated authorities also direct the preparation or heightened readiness of recovery teams and measures. The emergency operational cycle is activated to ensure: daily meetings of the EMT; collation, assessment and dissemination of situational awareness products and damage assessments to decision-makers; planning of recovery measures; and external and internal communications.

3. Phase 3 – Recovery. The focus of phase 3 is the coordination of Critical Support Functions to support continued delivery of Critical Services. Once immediate measures affecting the safety of employees and/or the public are implemented, designated authorities, in consultation with critical services and critical support function managers, activate applicable recovery plans for critical services and associated assets. These recovery options are activated in priority, based on Maximum Allowable Down Time. These options could include: relocation to alternate facilities or hardening of existing critical assets, prioritized system restoration, temporary reallocation of staff, activation of emergency contracted services, etc. Designated authorities then coordinate restoration or reconstruction (if necessary) of facilities, restoration and testing of infrastructure, and resumption of normal functions. At the end of this phase, the disruptive event has been eliminated, allowing designated authorities to terminate response and recovery operations and notify employees, the public, and stakeholders of the return to a normal state. Designated authorities must also coordinate the production of a “Lessons Learned” report.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.
by Richard Martin
Well, we’ve just had our latest winter storm of the decade (or what it century?) in Eastern Canada. Among other events, Montreal’s roads were a scene of chaos and waiting, and waiting, and waiting….
The Quebec Department of Transportation (Ministère du transport du Québec, MTQ) has been heavily blamed for the chaos and poor response on the roads, especially on Highway 13, one of the two main North-South arteries through Montreal. To illustrate, hundreds of cars were stranded on the 13 from late Tuesday afternoon rush hour through to mid-day on Wednesday. Some people had to spend the night in their car. We’re lucky no one died or was seriously injured there. It was a distinct possibility given the harshness of the conditions, the fact that most people were ill equipped (i.e. not ready) for just such a situation, and that there were deaths and serious injuries in other areas.
But the worst reproaches have been directed at the MTQ. It has since come out that the ministry’s emergency plans and procedures appear to be overly complex, requiring numerous steps in the decision process for road closure and emergency response (actually, 94 steps, but that’s the entire decision flowchart). But that’s probably a red herring. Such decision processes always look complex out of context. The real proof of validity and effectiveness for any emergency/contingency plan isn’t what it looks like on paper, but its performance and execution once it’s put into action. It’s clear that the MTQ and probably many other government and municipal agencies were out of their depth and overwhelmed by the scale of the disruption.
Instead, I think the real problem was that of poor preparation and training, unclear activation processes, lack of well-defined readiness levels, as well as a lack of practice. Did the ministry ever conduct exercises? I’m not talking about a “tabletop” exercise with a few departmental reps. I’m talking about full-scale field exercises? Many of these problems would have come out beforehand if they had been exercised adequately. Also, what disaster and/or storm scenarios were envisaged? If appears that there was little understanding of the prior coordination and planning that are required to ensure interdepartmental and intergovernmental cooperation. Wildlife agents in the Québec Forestry and Wildlife Ministry are equipped and trained to conduct search and rescue operations in heavy weather and extreme survival conditions, but no one called upon that department to provide support. This is a clear indication that prior arrangements we’re lacking, either in terms of planning or in actually requesting and coordinating a joint response.
This is ALWAYS my biggest beef with any organization I work with on risk management and emergency/business continuity readiness: the lack of practice. It’s one thing to tread with care when you’re a for-profit business and any disruption to ongoing operations for the purposes of exercising can have serious impacts on production and client services. But when we’re talking about a public-service organization with a clear public safety mandate, you simply MUST exercise thoroughly and regularly. If it’s good enough for the military, firefighters, and airport operations and security organizations, then it should be good enough for municipal and governmental departments at all levels and in all domains, especially if lives depend on it.
Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:
  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?
Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?
Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!
And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.


My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.


© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

In the field of military strategy, it is well-known that the capacities to recognize changes in the environment and to react quickly thereto provide a considerable, if not essential advantage. The same capacities apply to business strategy.

I call these capacities strategic flexibility; they demand that one continually observe the environment in order make strategic corrections. Businesses that rest on their laurels or that ignore this need can be overtaken both by events and by their competitors.

This implies a quick, accurate method to make adjustments to strategy. Therefore, I propose a model of strategic flexibility I call the 7-M method. The method refers to the following: mission, market, mark targets, mass, manoeuvres, morale, and marketing. To these must be added the plan of action that successfully unites the efforts of stakeholders both upstream and downstream of the business in question.

  1. Mission is the distillation of what you offer the world and its value.  It’s what defines your unique competence and motivations and the needs you meet. A mission statement must communicate your intentions in a short, precise manner that can be understood by all concerned:  employees, customers, suppliers, and even competitors. The mission, therefore, serves as the guiding star for your business.
  2. Market represents the potential clients for your goods or services who might buy from you since you can meet their needs with good value in your products or services. Market include the target groups among your clients and their needs. Market also includes an analysis of current market suppliers and of the decision-making processes of potential customers in terms of their long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals. This permits opportunities to be exploited and possible risks to be minimized or avoided.
  3. Mark targets provide concrete objectives that can be measured as part of your action plan. The ultimate target for your business constitutes your vision of where you want to be, say, in a year- and-a-half or two years hence. From this vision one can identify a hierarchy of goals, tasks, and results to be obtained.
  4. Mass refers to the most economical and effective ways of concentrating resources in order to meet goals as quickly as possible. This requires an analysis of your key strengths and weaknesses in order to permit success in your market.
  5. Manoeuvre refers to the operations according to the elements of the action plan including ensuring that the necessary tools and resources are available to permit successful operations. This includes the delegation of responsibilities such that people have sufficient margin of manoeuvre so they can respond successfully to opportunities and threats in the environment.
  6. Morale refers to the willingness of people to persevere in order to reach goals. While the welfare and the happiness of employees is important, it is not the be-all-and end-all of your business. Clear vision, mission, and plans are the key to good morale. As well, clear-headed analyses of risks to the execution of strategy and action plans along with contingency plans permit the prevention and minimization of possible risks to success.
  7. Marketing is the last, but certainly not the least part of flexible strategy. It requires clear messages of internal and external communication. There are three elements to a good marketing plan: general marketing vis-à-vis the overall brand and image of the company; marketing campaigns designed to meet customer needs within given geographical territories; plans for business development and sales that will permit successful, long-term and repeated relationships with customers that also will lead to establishing a solid reputation and possible new clients.

The action plan is the key to success because a vision without the required resources and concrete actions is only a hallucination. The essential elements of a good action plan include: a description of the situation being addressed such that readers will understand the purpose of the plan; the mission statement; detailed activity and resource plans; support and administrative requirements; internal and external communication plans; and the assigning of responsibilities to key personnel.

Obviously, doing all the above without the aid of an experienced expert in strategic and operational planning and leadership will be difficult. I invite you to contact me with your questions and suggestion of businesses and people that might benefit from application of the 7-M method. In the meantime, start with a description of your mission statement and an analysis of your potential markets; performing these steps alone should provide you with immediate benefits.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2016. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.

I’ve developed the following model to guide leaders in when and how to be decisive, delegative, consultative, or participative.

Decisive-Participative Matrix
I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

By analogy with combat readiness, business readiness is the state of being aware of, capable of, and fully prepared to exploit to changes, maximize opportunities, and minimize risks in order to achieve a company or business unit’s mission, vision, and objectives.Business readiness requires an offensive mindset in order to seize and maintain the initiative, as well as the strategic, operational, and tactical leadership to influence others in the achievement of the mission.

  1. Do you have a clear and precise mission and vision for your organization?
  2. Have these been well communicated to your management team? Has the team understood and implemented them?
  3. Is your business strategy offensively oriented, or is it overly defensive with you frequently reacting to your competitors’ moves?
  4. Do you have a good understanding of your strategic, operational, and tactical environments? Do your management team and employees have the same good understanding?
  5. How is morale in your organization? Note: Morale is not the same as whether or not employees are happy with the company or in a good mood. It is whether they are willing to fight to win.
  6. Are you entirely confident in your management team, and its capacity to translate strategy into concrete actions and results?
  7. Do you have a well-articulated operating strategy that has been translated into operating plans for finance, production, marketing, communications, sales, research and development, human resources, etc.?
  8. Do you have a succession plan to develop the next generation of leaders?
  9. Do all your leaders have a “second-in-command” who can take over at a moment’s notice?

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

  • How vulnerable is your supply chain to disruption and dislocation? Do you have a limited number of suppliers, or multiple ones, with potential alternatives for emergencies?
  • How long could your company or organization withstand disruption and dislocation to your supply chain or other logistical risks?
  • Do you have contingency plans and alternate solutions in place to deal with such conditions?
  • What preventive and mitigation measures do you have in place?
  • How quickly and efficiently can you respond to supply shocks and threats to lines of communication?

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Every once in a while we’re faced with highly emotional reactions to risky situations. The “lone wolf” attacks perpetrated in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa on Canadian state institutions (i.e., soldiers and Parliament) last week fall into this category, as does the Ebola outbreak in western Africa. Yet, if you watch the news and read newspapers, you’d think we’re under attack!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that the Ebola crisis in Africa isn’t dangerous and a major catastrophe, or that the terrorist threat isn’t real. But we have to keep things in perspective.

So far, a few people have contracted Ebola in North America and Europe. They have all been people who have been in prolonged bodily contact with infected victims in Africa, or who have treated these people. From what I gather, the non-Africans are also all health care workers. A few have survived, although we don’t know yet what, if any long-term consequences there will be on their health.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deem that a quarantine system is not needed, based on scientific opinion. Meanwhile, some states (e.g. New Jersey) have chosen to impose their own quarantine rules, overriding the considered evaluation of the CDC. The CDC is basing its recommendations on a scientific, rational assessment. I’m not sure the states and various schools that have reacted emotionally are doing the same thing. The science could be wrong, but at least it’s based on rational assessment of the risks and threat, not just emotional reaction. It’s therefore subject to updating as more empirical evidence is gathered and as the theoretical understanding of the disease progresses. Moreover, where does the epidemiological know how reside, in the CDC, or a handful of much smaller and less capable state and municipal agencies?

Whenever we face a potential health crisis, such as a pandemic or epidemic, it’s normal to assess the threats and risks and take preventive or compensatory action. On the other hand, we have to keep the threat in perspective. Every year, thousands of parents refuse to have their children inoculated against common diseases. Whether we’re talking about measles or smallpox, the risks of infection and mortality vary. The common element is that this stupid attitude toward proven measures for preventing and containing these diseases has enabled a periodic resurgence of measles, pertussis (whooping cough), etc. And, we’ve been lucky that smallpox has not come back in strength.

Here’s the thing, though: measles and pertussis can actually kill people, especially the weakest, and that usually means children. So, on the one hand we have an overreaction to Ebola by state and municipal authorities in the US (and no doubt other countries), while some people are too fearful or pigheaded to take active measures such as allowing vaccinations for their children. Not only does this put their own children at risk, but it reduces the overall “herd immunity” of a population. This is required to protect those for whom vaccination doesn’t work no matter what. If you doubt this, I invite you to watch a recent episode of PBS’s Nova science documentary on vaccination panics in the US. You can watch it online.

There is also a lack of perspective on the terrorism threat, and we need a balanced and reasoned approach to the risks of what are known as “lone wolf” terrorists. This isn’t a new threat, or proper to Islamic extremism. There have always been crackpots with various motivations, be they environmentalists ready to spike trees in order to injure forestry workers or Jewish ultra-orthodox extremists willing to blow themselves up in Jerusalem. We also need to keep in mind that terrorism and urban guerrilla are the strategy of the weak. As I wrote in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres, it “stems from a realization the force one is commanding is incapable of highly coordinated, and highly damaging offensive action.” Security consultancy and analysis firm STRATFOR points out that the “lone wolf” approach to Jihadism is actually mostly a failure for extremist Muslims intending on creating havoc in the West. It comes from a realization that they are unable to launch destructive and coordinated attacks without exposing themselves to extreme risks of mission failure.

When a crisis hits, it’s time to think, even if hastily, not to panic and run around responding to popular appeals to “do something, anything.” We often have to weigh a range of unsavoury options in order to select and implement a “least bad” solution. The danger with overreacting to terrorism is that we impose so many restrictions on civil liberties and access to democratic institutions that the terrorists get a political and social response that is out of all proportion to the actual risks.

When we’re talking about health risks, the danger is that we overreact while we ignore or tolerate much more damning behaviours in our own back yard. Reasonable measures to prevent and mitigate contagion from Africa are one thing. But meanwhile, there are incipient outbreaks of easily preventable and controllable diseases right here, and they don’t come from Africa.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.