Operational Resilience in Your Life

Andrew Cortis, Perimeter Group

I would like you to take part in an experiment, if you are brave enough you can run it live but a cognitive exercise will perform just as well. It’s going to cost you nothing, just the simple the push of a button…ready….ok…..don’t charge your phone this evening, then set off to work, your next appointment or simply enjoy the weekend for 24hrs without your phone….on purpose!

For many of you, the mere thought of voluntarily turning off your phone and attempting to operate fills you with complete dread.

If you are still with me, begin to run through the important services you rely on hour by hour or day by day; the things that allow you to operate as an optimum version of yourself. Travel times for delayed striking trains, an absolute must down my way, money transfer services on your beautifully designed banking app, streaming music, box sets to block out the daily commute, or perhaps the social connectivity which, at any time of day or night, provides an opportunity to enjoy the endless and questionable antics of your family and friends.

In its simplest terms, what we are doing here is running a personal resilience exercise to establish the impact on us and our network if/when important services are removed. Our ability to perform complex tasks is delivered with simplistic ease if the capability and connectivity to our network exists, but what if it is removed by an outage or failure?

For those of you who have plucked up the courage to consider this set of circumstances and maybe even layered on some additional scenarios of your own, we can use heuristics and simple quantitative measures to rapidly calculate a broad approximation of impact and our tolerance to that impact. Our ability to continue to function is derived from quickly establishing a baseline and by running some relevant scenarios.

Today is the end of a long dark and fairly miserable month, culminating in one final elephant trap – it is the deadline to submit our self-assessment tax return. A spike of anxiety for some and warm smug self-satisfaction for others. What’s important about this example? In some ways it’s a good proxy for impact – we can instantly measure the impact of a delayed submission either through technical failure or apathy, it’s £100.  We can probably all afford the penalty and therefore our impact tolerance to financial loss is high but what about if this delay continues, there might be a reputational impact with significantly higher costs.

There is a famous expression “only the paranoid survive”. What does this mean in this context of Operational Resilience? Well as institutions or individuals we can choose to act by testing our resilience and understanding of the down side risk or we can bury our collective heads in the sand and hope.

Hope is especially appropriate in many forms for me this weekend as I travel to Dublin to watch Ireland play Scotland in the 6 nations; global pandemic aside. I have given scant regard to the connections I will make to all the institutions I will interact with in Dublin. I hope they are all resilient enough to at least serve the black stuff and transport me to and from the game. In this scenario I can afford to hope for a Scotland victory, it’s the only control I have in my world, and I will not be impacted much if they don’t……..now where did I leave my phone charger?

by Andrew Cortis, Managing Director, Perimeter Group

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