The value of exercises

Any organisation can be exposed to situations that deviate from daily routines. These situations may include incidents such as accidents, espionage, cyberattacks, extortion attempts, and production halts. What these situations have in common is that they are not everyday occurrences.

Many businesses have conducted thorough risk assessments and developed robust processes, including emergency preparedness plans, outlining what to do in the event of an unexpected incident. However, there are very few organisations who actually rehearse the processes outlined in these plans.

An emergency preparedness plan must be known to employees, and those who have specific responsibilities outlined in the plan must be aware and understand their roles. Most companies experience staff turnover from time to time, making it crucial for new employees to receive training on their roles in various situations. Another aspect to consider is that the risk landscape can change, necessitating adjustments to emergency preparedness plans.

By regularly practicing different scenarios, an organisation will be better equipped to handle a crisis when it occurs. While the crisis may not mirror the exact scenario that was rehearsed, employees will be more confident in their roles and better prepared to manage the situation. Simply knowing who is part of the crisis management team, where they should convene, and who is responsible for what, can provide a significant advantage when a real crisis occurs.

What Efforts Are Necessary to Conduct Exercises?

An exercise need not be extensive or resource-intensive. Often, it is sufficient to conduct a table-top exercise where a situation is presented, and participants discuss the situation, clarify their actions, and determine who does what. As the exercise progresses, new information may emerge, prompting participants to reevaluate the situation. A table-top exercise with three different scenarios can be completed within a three-hour time frame and still yield valuable training outcomes. Following the exercise, it is essential to evaluate what was done, and to adjust emergency preparedness plans and procedures if any flaws or deficiencies are identified.

Why Not Simply Conduct Exercises Internally?

Many individuals possess the competence and experience to plan, execute, and evaluate exercises without external assistance. However, there is a significant advantage to involving external facilitators as discussion partners in both the planning and evaluation phases. Most importantly, seeking external assistance during the actual execution of the exercise is highly beneficial. Our experience has shown that all participants are more focused when outsiders facilitate the exercise and provide feedback to the crisis management team on how they handle their tasks. Additionally, external facilitators can offer top executives (who may be involved in various ways) constructive and candid feedback on their performances. If a subordinate takes on this role, it can often lead to undesirable dynamics in both the execution and evaluation phases.

Interested in Improving Your Preparedness?

At Agenda Risk, we have extensive experience and expertise in both planning and conducting exercises. Please feel free to contact us if your organisation is interested in learning more about the possibilities of conducting an exercise.

We are also planning a full-day training course on exercises in winter 2023, with the goal of empowering participants to plan and conduct exercises within their own organisations.