As I write this, my people are revisiting our disaster recovery plans in anticipation of Hurricane Ike. Now Ike is several days away from any contact with Florida, let alone the eastern Panhandle.
Hurricane computer models are such iffy things, but they are the tools used by modern forecasters to predict a storm's future movement, speed, direction and intensity. And currently, almost all computer models have the storm eventually making it into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. And that is when we begin to sweat.
But we fortunately/unfortunately have another weekend between us and the approaching storm. The padding of a weekend is only fortunate if one is actually preparing for the storm. If people wait until after the weekend to tune back into the storm's progress, it will in all probability be too late to make effective preparations.
Many people under the age of 30 are clueless about the hurricane's namesake, President Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower. Ike is the Forgotten President. Sandwiched in between Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, Eisenhower is remembered best as the commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II. He was a career military officer whose training camp in World War I was overrun by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and he lost over a hundred men to the virus.
Ike did not start out as a great general. The African landing was a bit of a disaster, and it took several battles before the Americans began asserting themselves as fighters. He also had to navigate difficult political waters, especially with the impossible boor DeGaulle and a fragile coalition that he held together with the strong support of Churchill. He had to overcome the lack of respect from some of his generals, and had to fire one after a catastrophic loss in order to get Patton his first command.
But the Ike I reference in this Blog is Ike, the Master of Planning. And Ike said it best when he said:
"The plan's useless; it's the planning that's important."
Now before you go and throw away that DR plan, it's important to know exactly what he meant. Ike believed that planning, such as the planning that goes into a military campaign, is a constantly changing set of dynamics. No military plan can be rigid; if it is, it will fail. The famous Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) said as much, and his train of thought was condensed by pupil Helmuth Graf von Moltke (1800-1891) when the German Generalfeldmarschall said, "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy." Von Clausewitz also is credited for the expression "the fog of war," also an apt observation.
Ike had his share of experiences to validate his axiom that planning is more important than the plan itself. And his wisdom can be put to good use today.
Too often, disaster recovery plans become static deliverables with no life to them. They are compiled by large groups of people who congratulate themselves after the final draft is adopted, then go about their usual work and never return to the DR document until calamity strikes. Then they realize that their plans are no longer relevant, and they have to "wing it" with their preps.
Worse still are those organizations who outsource their disaster recovery plans to an outside firm. That firm ain't gonna be there when the excrement hits the fan, baby! So putting your organization's survival in the hands of disinterested third parties is just a bad idea. If you want a company to facilitate, even scribe, that's one thing. But to pay huge sums of money to a company and expecting them to understand, let alone plan for your continuity is madness.
Finally, you need to exercise your plan whenever the opportunity arises. Look for things you haven't thought of yet. And be sure to include everyday frontline workers in your planning team. I guarantee you they will offer operational details that you had never taken into consideration. The objective of all this planning and rehearsing is to produce a living, breathing, organic plan that can adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
So go to school on someone else's misfortune. Pull your people together and discuss what you would do differently if flooding hit, or a hurricane flattened your data center, or if an earthquake disrupted your global communications. Plan, plan and plan some more. Because disaster recovery is not a static plan; it is a living planning process. And the process of planning is what Ike said is most important.