Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How to ride the peaks and flatten the troughs of executive engagement

Lee Glendon CBCI
If your experience of engaging senior and executive management feels like a constant struggle to sustain momentum or defend investment, then you should take 15 minutes to look at the C-Suite EngagementToolkit that has just been launched by the BCI.
In 2011, the BCI published its report on members’ experience of board-level engagement, and some of the comments are reprised here:
  • The board has implemented a corporate BC plan after a study from consultants but the momentum isn’t there any more
  • No sustained interest shown, despite a variety of constructive efforts
  • The board has received papers on BCM at its last two meetings but the time and discussion were limited. 
  • BC resourcing is under increasing pressure in all areas of the company
  • There was great interest in 2006 but less since the auditors’ requirements were met
  • We are still working on board buy-in
  • Some projects were approved by the board but I do not have access to what is discussed on BCM
  • The interest in BCM goes in peaks and troughs dependent on what current risks are high profile e.g. severe weather, volcanic ash, pandemic flu, IT failure
It’s important to counter-balance these comments with a different experience enjoyed by others:
  • The board has an understanding of what BCM has to offer the organization and is now beginning to understand that it protects the organization’s assets and reputation during an incident or crisis
  • BCM is an advisor in many decisions, adding to the information available to senior management to support informed decisions regarding risk, resilience and continuity
  • Business Continuity is playing an ever increasing role within the procurement process and this is changing the way the tender process is approached
  • Our senior management team is very supportive and committed, if it is presented and implemented well
C-Suite Toolkit
The toolkit was developed to help address this disparity of experience by trying to understand what can be done to build and sustain engagement.  In short, if you want to have more of the latter experiences than the former, then it is worth thinking about developing a structured approach to executive engagement. 
Even if you do not have an incident, near miss, or industry peer that has suffered from a crisis, your organization will have key projects and programmes with related risks and key performance indicators.  These risks and indicators are likely to be assigned to key executives.  One of the key benefits of business continuity, as expressed by BCI members, is its value in better understanding critical processes and vulnerabilities, valuable information for decision makers, so it is important to be clear on this area of value add.
So how does the toolkit help?
The development of the C-Suite Engagement Toolkit has been practitioner-led from the start.  It is not an academic paper on the importance of engaging executives – anyone running a business continuity programme already recognises this requirement– this toolkit sets out a framework for achieving sustained board and senior management engagement by drawing upon insights and expertise from disciplines such as sales, third party research into executive interests, and the world of psychology and soft skills.
The first part of the toolkit contains profiles on common C-Suite, or senior management roles from Chief Executive Officers to Chief Financial Officers and their equivalents in IT, Marketing, Operations, HR and many more.  These profiles include suggestions on areas of their interest where business continuity has a contribution to make.  Naturally, exercising is a proven way of engaging executives, so ideas for shaping the exercise to fit the interests of the C-Suite executive are provided as well.
The second part of the toolkit asks you to think more closely about your existing programme and the information it delivers and how this can provide the facts and evidence to build a compelling story to support engagement with executives based around the interests identified in the first part of the toolkit. 
The third part of the toolkit takes the facts from the second part and the broad understanding of functional interests from the first and asks whether this is sufficient for successful and repeatable engagement.   Through a series of videos, you are taken into a scenario where it becomes evident that a key element is still missing.  This element is sometimes called soft skills, other terms may include building rapport, or simply communicating effectively.  Through the scenario, you are introduced to the value of understanding personality types, and how soft skills such as speed reading can improve the likelihood of success.  In other words, all three elements of the toolkit need to be understood and applied if we are to expect more consistent results from engagement with executives.
In addition to the videos and information provided on the website, worksheets are provided for each section of the toolkit, to help plan your own engagement approach.  Links are also provided to third party and BCI resources.  For those who are keen to develop their understanding of different personality types, including their own, reference is made to available models.  And for those looking to revamp their executive-level communication skills, a master class training course has been specifically designed to support you.
So now over to you!  Let us know what you think of the toolkit, please try some of the ideas and let us have your feedback (research@thebci.org). 

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