Hit by a bus

Blog #200

In this two-part blog series, we’ll explore the fun, yet really important topic of continuity planning. The first blog will illustrate how to do this with your entire leadership team, while next week’s blog will be specific to CEOs.  

In the team version of my workshops, this exercise is designed to smoke out a whole host of uncomfortable and hopefully never-needed issues. However, when these issues are identified and addressed, the leadership team will sleep better at night. It’s all focused on contingency and business continuity planning if a senior member of the leadership team suddenly disappears.

I call it “hit by a bus”. I know it’s a terribly dreadful thought. Some prefer to call it “winning the lottery,” but I take issue with this. I want to build teams that love what they do so much that if they did win the lottery, they would still come to work (maybe driving a new Ferrari, but they would still show up, early and excited for the work they do). But I digress…

Early in the process with my teams, I often write the phrase “hit by a bus” on the list of issues and opportunities. This inevitably brings up questions about what it references. I like to ask the simple question, “What would life be like for everyone else at the table if any one member suddenly disappeared?” This is often met with uncomfortable body shifts in chairs, a meaningless shuffle of papers, or blank stares. As the blood flows from their heads, they begin sweating with the realization  that it would be a nightmare for everyone involved.

Usually, most organizations have little to no contingency or continuity plan in place, and if they do, they are likely outdated and/or unknown by anyone in the room. 

With this realization made, we will begin smoking out an entire host of issues. My goal for this exercise is to not solve all the issues, but to simply identify and document them. Armed with this knowledge, the team can then dig in and tackle them one at a time. 

Typically, I start with four main areas then have each team member outline answers and more questions. These four questions will weed out what is needed for a business contingency and continuity plan:

  1. Internal Mechanics
    1. What specifically did you do?
    1. Is a transfer of ownership involved?
    1. Where are the key documents we need?
    1. Who needs to get involved (e.g., attorney, banker, accountant)?
    1. And many more
  2. Key Relationships
    1. External relationships the client is facing
    1. Internal relationships (e.g., will we have anyone at risk?)
    1. External relationships (e.g., vendors, suppliers, etc.)
  3. Accountability
    1. For which specific areas and activities of the business are you accountable?
    1. Who, at the leadership team level, will be accountable during the transition?
  4. What else are we missing?
    1. Internal facing
    1. External facing
    1. Family support
    1. This is unlimited

Depending on the time and energy level, we then start outlining what would need to be done in the first day, week, month, three months, and year. This outline is the beginning of a continuity plan that will be built for seats in which CEOs sit. Often, this exercise also assists teams with clarifying roles and accountabilities, processing gaps, discussing hand-off challenges, and much more. When addressed, all of these help the organization to run better and provide some peace of mind for worst-case scenarios.

Regardless if you’re an owner, senior leader, or department head, this simple exercise can help clarify and streamline things for you today. I recommend scheduling time to sit down and go through this with your team.

Next week, we will examine what an expanded version of this exercise looks like when the CEO unexpectedly doesn’t physically show up when the whole team is getting together for a scheduled quarterly offsite strategy session.

Could your organization use some assistance with continuity planning? Are you interested in learning how to keep things running smoothly when faced with the unexpected? Reach out to us today to find out how!

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