Authored by Adrienne Larmett and Eric Wunderlich
Nearly a year and a half ago the world essentially came to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. For many organizations that meant transitioning operations and employees into a virtual environment and operating model, which brought about tremendous challenges and uncertainty. Some organizations fared better than others with minimal disruption to the delivery of their services or products, while others struggled to adapt.
Organizations that were successful in transitioning to a virtual environment likely had strong business continuity plans (BCP) in place to help them weather the COVID-19 black swan event (i.e., an event that results in severe and widespread consequences). Similarly, the organizations that struggled to adapt have since realized (hopefully!) the importance of having clearly defined processes and plans in place to enable the continuity of their operations (as well as maintaining customer/consumer confidence and brand and reputation, and managing financial risk) both before and throughout a disruption event.
As the world aims to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, organizations must evaluate the strength of their business continuity programs and make the necessary updates or changes based on over a year’s worth of data. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of an after action review (AAR).
Originally developed by the U.S. military, an AAR is a systematic review process for management and process owners responsible for the project or event to:
AARs serve as an opportunity to learn from the past year and take actions to be better prepared for the next event. AARs are an integral piece of business continuity planning and enterprise risk management programs. When conducting an AAR, organizations should be assessing and updating plans to address the following areas:
Taking the time now to bring key team members together in a virtual environment to walk through how an issue or project was implemented is essential for continued success, but may bring challenges. Looking back at what worked, or didn’t work, could quickly deteriorate into a finger pointing or conflict quickly if not planned and managed properly. One way organizations can productively update their business continuity programs is through disciplined AARs, with the assistance of an external facilitator to help plan and guide the process. The facilitator can encourage a positive and forward looking approach to the process while allowing the team members to step back and objectively reflect on what went well, where and why the challenges occurred, and identify lessons learned and best practices that can be leveraged in the future.
Whether or not we see another globe-shuttering pandemic in our lifetime, disruptive events (e.g., weather, civil unrest, cyber attacks, utility outages) will continue to persist. For organizations to continue to be successful they must: