It's a disaster when degradation occurs to one of the three fundamental elements of production: equipment, software, or people.

Most think of a disaster as a fire or an earthquake that destroys equipment, but a systems failure or loss of one's work force can be just as disastrous.

The probability that you will emerge unscathed from a disaster can be significantly improved if you remember the following three points:

* Shift focus from production to control. Deadlines drive day-to-day production. However, production goals and deadlines assume a stable operating environment. When degradation occurs to the operating environment, existing goals and deadlines become arbitrary and the effective manager must shift his focus from production to control.

New goals and deadlines appropriate to the situation must be established. Work that cannot be controlled should not be processed. The manager's primary function becomes one of understanding how the work will be controlled.

* Workflows must be understood and controlled. All workflows within each operating unit must be separated into three separately identified groups: work received but not yet processed; work in process; and work processed but not yet dispatched to the next work area.

The area manager must develop a way to ensure control for each of the different types of work carried out within the operating area.

Control cannot be taken for granted. Duplicate or missing work resulting from a breakdown in controls will normally be the primary source of operating problems during a disaster.

Processes and procedures must be developed to account for and to control all three classifications of work.

No work should be processed unless it can be controlled and none should be released unless control has been established.

* Remember: People are your only creative asset. When a disaster occurs, these creative energies must be focused on control. This shift in employee focus is easier said than done. The employees will not change their focus unless they are asked to change, a factor that often is overlooked.

Disaster-readiness training should include discussions regarding where and why control points occur within the normal operating environment and how these control points can be duplicated during a crisis.

To prepare for a disaster, read your bank's current disaster-recovery plan. Most plans focus on reinstating the operating environment that has been disrupted - with very little attention to how work will be accomplished during the period of disruption.

About the only thing most disaster-recovery plans do in this regard is compile lists of things to do and people to call.

While these lists are handy, they are not a guide to effective management. How many good managers do you know who rely on lists of how to manage on a day-to-day basis? If one could succeed in a disaster by following the instructions in a book, anybody could be a good manager in a crisis.

The best preparation for managing in a disaster is to understand the fundamentals of one's job:

* What work comes into a given area and how it is received.

* What work is accomplished in the area.

* How the work is accounted for and controlled at each processing step.

People who are familiar with their individual responsibilities but who do not understand what others do or how their systems and equipment establish and maintain control will be ill prepared to create manual controls when their automated controls fail.

People who understand the why behind their jobs are in a much better situation to create the necessary manual controls required for successful crisis management.

In a crisis, the effective manager will be on the shop floor soliciting input from his supervisors and staff. The effective manager will constantly be asking, "How do we, know that we have established control?"

Missing your deadline during a disaster situation will cause problems for a day or two, but the customers will understand. Losing control during a crisis will cause a disaster that will last much longer than the disaster at hand.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.