Situational Example: Business Continuity and a Systems Perspective
For instance, the hypothetical business ABZ Corp. is a mid-sized manufacturer of the Widget Weasel. The product is produced in Pennsylvania and is the primary profit source for the company. The workforce consists of management and non-unionized production units. ABZ is attempting to break into other markets as a diversification approach within the strategic plan. As part of the organizational review, the CEO has requested a review and update on the protective measures (risk protections) within the organization; they are concerned about the organization’s ability to withstand a severe business interruption.
The BC team is part of the risk management department. Ten BC professionals are developing a new BC program (BCP) for the organization.
The former continuity director used approaches that he learned over many years, and most of the plans and recovery documents were still in binders on shelves. The new BC director, Sally, was hired with a mandate to modernize the program. Sally is a champion of change initiatives within organizations to foster transformative change.
Sally began her new job by establishing her presence in the organization; she met with a variety of mid-level managers. She wanted to create both a professional and personal relationship with these leaders. The BC director asked many questions and listened to the answers, ensuring that the managers knew she was there to help safeguard the business operation and people of the organization. Sally also made sure that the managers understood that she valued their involvement - they were critical to the success of the business continuity program.
Sally took a systems perspective when looking at the organization. She understood that each process was interrelated to other processes in the organization. Most processes had upstream and downstream dependencies throughout the organization. Figure 1.6 depicts the relationship dependencies between a single process (i.e., HR Generalist Process) and the upstream and downstream processes. The upstream processes have information or perform a function (i.e., produce output) that is necessary for the HR Generalist Process to operate appropriately. The downstream processes require information or output from the HR Generalist Process to function. In a system, each process is related to other processes and is required for the entire organization to function as leadership expects.
There is an important reality to remember when considering the parts of a system. There are formal processes that relate to documented dependency mapping and organizational charts, and there are informal relationships between people. The informal relationships create additional
Figure 1.6 Process Dependency Mapping - Systems Perspective.
systems dependencies that are outside of the officially recognized processes. For instance, if there is a long-term employee of the organization with extensive institutional knowledge, the person may act as an unofficial resource to accomplish goals or functions - "go ask Joe, he knows how to get that done without the red tape." Unofficial resources often circumvent formal processes to facilitate the completion of a task or function; the relationships are interpersonal friendships.
COVID-19 Systems Example
The spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus (2019-2021) is an example of the devastating implications on societal systems. The virus spread throughout the world via mass transit systems across the globe. Taking a flight from Asia to Europe or the United States to Europe is relatively fast. Within hours, a person carrying the virus can begin spreading the disease thousands of miles away without showing any signs of infection. The population of numerous countries became infected through routine travel and community interaction.
The global society is an extensive system with a large number of interdependencies, including travel, supply chain distribution, medical services, food, household needs, entertainment, and education. Consider the relationship between parents, jobs, social distancing, closed businesses and schools, and the supervision of children during COVID-19. While many parents with corporate jobs telework, there is a large portion of the United States workforce unable to telework and must suffer layoffs. There is the issue of some parents in essential positions like nurses, doctors, and food service industry workers (e.g., fast food and grocery stores); those workers holding jobs that required them to go to work while their children are home were forced to make difficult decisions. With the daycare and schools closed, those workers had to make decisions about the safety of their children from the pandemic and a supervision perspective.
Extended families living together had the added dynamic of elderly family members exposed to workers going in and out of the household. Many impoverished families holding jobs that require attendance are unable to stay at home to supervise children. Elderly family members might not have the ability to babysit because of the dangers of the pandemic. The complex system of the functional family is critical to the broader societal issues like the economy, the education system, and societal health.
While the spread within a community impacted families, there was also an impact on the economy and numerous businesses. People became ill and stayed home or went into the hospital resulting in manufacturing to decline. Orders for subcomponent products remained unfulfilled. Without products to deliver, transport companies faltered. Without critical components, larger products such as cell phones and computers remained unfinished, and customers were waiting for new products. Since Asian countries are key supply centers for technology components, when the populations of China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan became infected and unable to work, industries closed down. The closure of these manufacturing centers had drastic impacts on numerous other technology manufacturers. Systems are made up of numerous interdependencies and interrelated processes. If there is an impact on sections of the system, the ripple will be felt throughout the system.