February 5, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
"The Governor will soon be announcing an early retirement plan. Exact details are still in negotiation. However, only one in four employees will be replaced, one-third of our managers will likely leave, employees cannot come back on contract, contractors cannot be hired to fill voids and budgets will be cut equal to staffing cuts. We expect about 20 percent of your overall staff to leave. One more thing -- no additional overtime will be authorized."
Devastating news; fortunately it was just an exercise.
Oct. 1, 2009, Michigan's infrastructure directors were gathered offsite at a management planning meeting, and we were all relieved that our state government had just avoided a shutdown. We were immediately challenged with the above message from our public information officer. Some people seemed a bit stunned by the announcement; others were smiling, since they would be eligible to leave.
For decades, emergency management offices have used scenario-based planning exercises to test our ability to respond to natural disasters, and other emergencies. And more recently, to mitigate cyber-threats. We learned during the weeks and months after 9/11, organizations that prepare for the unexpected perform much better following emergency incidents.
Tabletop exercises can enhance communication, foster team building, improve coordination, clarify roles and help with issue identification. Going further, many businesses use scenario planning to improve all aspects of their service delivery.
But can responding to budget cut scenarios help technology teams improve? What if the budget cuts never happen? Might this be a waste of precious time? Our experience with scenario-based planning in Michigan demonstrates an excellent return on investment for all involved. Here's what we did -- and what you can do:
Several weeks later, plans were discussed with selected customers. Some improvements are being implemented, while other changes will be saved in case of an early retirement or budget emergency.
What did we learn from the exercise?
I encourage you to challenge your team by offering a tabletop exercise with scenarios that include budget emergencies, such as an early retirement. You'll be surprised by what you learn.
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