The Name Game


There I sat with a very big potential client in a swanky boardroom in the USA.  We exchanged pleasantries.  The client wanted a “business continuity plan” sometimes referred to as a BCP, with the “C” sometimes standing for continuation.

I pulled out my 3-ring binder—a 200 page template for a crisis management plan.  I explained that there are lots of things you can do well in advance of an event to prepare. These include writing messages for media, regulators, legislators, stakeholders, and people you may have affected by the event you caused, or are managing.  You can list where to get supplies and people, because the middle of a crisis is no time to pull out the phone book (if they even still exist in your town), or start Googling (if there’s power).

“Gee, we’re looking for a business continuity plan.”

I pointed out that there used to be something called business resumption planning, but that implied that the business had stopped.  So we switched to continuity planning—trying to keep the business going during a crisis. Then, there’s risk management in which we identify risks and try to prevent them from harming you. But if there is harm, then you need crisis management.  I’m less concerned with the terminology than I am with keeping a business safe.

“That’s a shame.  We were looking for business continuity planning.”  

I left.  They didn’t get a plan, and I didn’t get a client.  Shame.

There are even more terms now. The public sector has COOPs-Continuity of Operations Plans—removing the term ‘business.’   

Years ago I was in the government relations field.  One of my contacts in government began referring to “corporate-wide” policies and “corporate” goals.  Since he was not in a corporation, I asked what he meant.  He meant the Ministry in a government or the cabinet in the government.  Corporate for him meant a large entity, I guess.           

And so we arrive, via the scenic route, to the emergency plan of Brisbane, Australia.  I’ve flown in and out of Brisbane and stayed for a bit in Surfer’s Paradise–a combination Big Sur, California, Haight- Ashbury, and Greenwich Village (when I was there).  I was there so long ago that on my last visit to Sydney there was a museum display on Surfer’s.

Brisbane has a “Corporate Pandemic Sub Plan” overseen by people in “Corporate Risk Management.”  Someone in a corporation might think that it would be a guide to keeping a business afloat during a pandemic.  In a way it is, but it appears to be for the city, not for corporations in the city.  Then there’s reference to “Corporate Business Continuity Plans” and “Business Continuity Plans” covering “essential business services.”  Then, “Divisional Business Continuity Plans” deal with such things as “Cemeteries, Fire Management, Animal Management and Ferries…”      

OK, a city may legally be a corporation, and this may be the case in Brisbane.  But few people think of cities in this way, or services provided as businesses.  What if corporations started calling themselves public administrators, or referred to their board members as Premiers, Governors, Presidents and such?  We’d muddy the waters.   

After the name game, I find many of Brisbane’s pandemic planning ideas good.  Increasing work from home, deferring travel, finding alternatives for cleaning, security, non-critical functions, and maintenance are all vital.  Even better is increasing hygiene, reducing mail delivery and bus service.  Both the public and private sectors have roles to play.

A pandemic may last for three months, 50% of staff may not report to work for two weeks, 40% of the population may have symptoms and 2.5% of residents may die.

That’s why I don’t care what you call it.  It’s life and death.

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