Most businesses have a business continuity plan (BCP). These plans range from well documented and routinely tested, to rough ideas about how a business will cope with unforeseen circumstances. Every single business in America has now grappled with how to continue operations during the COVID-19 crisis and it has changed BCPs forever. I now challenge business owners to stop thinking in terms of business continuity and start thinking in terms of operational adaptability.
The distinction between business continuity and operational adaptability is important. Continuity is “uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change,”1 while adaptability is the “ability to change or be changed in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose.”2 Businesses did not continue without essential change through this crisis. Rather, they adapted to work better in some situations or for some purpose.
Go West IT worked alongside many businesses to guide them through rapid adaptation in response to COVID-19 and resulting public policy. I saw very little evidence of businesses opening their BCPs and working through the thoughtfully developed steps and processes. I witnessed rapid troubleshooting and change with a focus on taking care of employees and customers. What I saw was operational adaptation.
Today, as businesses come to grip with “the new normal,” I worry that the real lesson is being missed. The lesson is the value of operational adaptability. Continued pursuit of our purpose requires that we adapt. Our purpose at Go West IT is to empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods. Adaptation is necessary so that we may achieve our purpose on behalf of our staff and customers.
The result of adaptation necessitated by the lockdown may prove to have been a huge operational advance. While there is likely still much short-term pain ahead of us, I believe the business community has learned that:
- work from home strategies are viable; and
- business travel may not be essential; and
- cloud technologies and their scalability (up and down) is more valuable than the delta of a simple CapEx vs. OpEx calculation.
We have also learned that people can adapt, and that they do so quickly when in pursuit of a worthy purpose.
Focus on adaptation to continue in the pursuit of your purpose.
P.S. I understand that many businesses have a regulatory requirement to develop, test, and maintain BCPs. Do that. However, note the lessons learned and think in terms of adaptability rather than continuity, just as I seek ways to adapt our new, larger, and mostly empty office space to better empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods.