Warts and all
Whether we’re conducting a scenario-based crisis management or business recovery exercise, an IT or user relocation test or some other type of rehearsal, there’s often a fair bit at stake for those involved in the event.
For instance, there may well be a significant amount of management and staff time invested in preparing and carrying out the exercise; the planners and facilitators may feel that their ability or reputation is on the line; the IT department may feel that their technical capability is under the spotlight; or the person responsible for implementing the continuity strategy may feel that their credibility is at stake.
Whatever the reason, when the exercise or test is over and we’re writing the report, it can be tempting to focus almost entirely on the positives and gloss over the negatives. In fact some test reports take this to the extreme and end up as nothing more than a back-slapping exercise. But if we don’t tell the whole story we’re missing a trick.
Of course it’s important to recognise the successes and to give credit where it’s due, but in doing so there’s a danger that the stuff that didn’t go so well doesn’t get sufficient attention. The result is that problems aren’t fixed or issues aren’t resolved, which is one of the main reasons for carrying out the exercise or test in the first place. In order to avoid this, the post-exercise report needs to be honest and tell it as it was – warts and all.
We shouldn’t be afraid to include comments on what didn’t go so well or to point out what hasn’t yet been tested – and therefore what risks remain. In doing so the report doesn’t have to suggest that the test or exercise was a failure (indeed, a test or exercise that highlights problems or issues should be seen as a success rather than a failure) but it should recognise the work that still needs to be done.
So don’t be afraid to tell it like it is, good and bad. Indulge in a bit of mutual back-slapping by all means, but don’t completely bury the bad news – it may just come back to haunt you if you do.