Unfolding plans 15 – Don’t worry. Zombies don’t knock.

Next time you are walking past a book shop, pop in and buy a copy of World War Z – An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.  It is an historical account of the period during and after the great zombie war.  It is a chilling and terrifying collection of interviews from those directly involved in an apocalyptic time.

It is more than that though.  It is a great critique of your business continuity plan.  How can it be?  Nobody is honestly expecting a zombie attack.  Are they?  (We did get a freedom of information request however asking what plans we had in place.)  That’s my point.  All of our business continuity plans are based upon assumptions that we make.  We work out in advance what could possibly go wrong and invent scenarios where we work out what we are going to do. Of course what we think will happen never does and what we least expected comes true.

This means that we haven’t done enough scenarios.  We didn’t choose the right areas to work on.  We didn’t have sufficient information on which to base our planning.  We just need to work harder and find better ways of testing our preparedness.

That’s the myth that the book blows apart.   Zombies don’t obey the rules.  Conventional weapons don’t kill them.  They don’t organise with any intent.  They just make their way towards you and bite you.  Once that has happened then you are done for.  You will become one of them.

None of the preparation or scenario planning worked because nobody had foreseen an enemy that they could not imagine.  Our assumption is that a disaster will happen within a world that still functions yet it was a global war and infrastructure collapsed under the pressure.  People with the right skills were no longer available to undertake the essential services that kept society running.  Their plans fell apart on first contact with the zombies and they had to start from scratch.

How do you compete with a creature that is not interested in living or dying (they are already dead)?  How do you train for years to aim for the heart and then learn to aim for the head?  We can only imagine based upon what we know.  Imagine a new shape.  Think of a new colour.  It is very difficult if not impossible to do.

So what is the answer then?  Stop planning and start preparing.  Don’t imagine scenarios and act them out as if they were real.  Instead we should ask ourselves what we would need to know to cope with whatever life is going to throw at us.   Do we know where everyone works?  Do we know what they do?  Do we know which tasks are important and which we could do without?  Would we be able to contact who we need at any time of day?  Where do our key supplies come from?  Who are the customers who rely upon us most?  Most importantly how are you going to organise yourself when that thing you have been dreading knocks on your door?

Don’t worry.  Zombies don’t knock.

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