The Efficacy of Business Continuity Planning: Stories from a Natural Disaster

Sharon Doyle

    Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis

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    There has been considerable academic effort on how organisations should prepare for an unforeseen disaster. Business continuity planning (BCP) has been advocated as a method of working out how to stay in business in the event of a disaster. Despite many calls for organisations to engage in BCP (Lindstedt, 2008), there are no studies of the efficacy of such processes, and little by way of empirical research on the topic. In this empirical study we examine the efficacy of BCP using the recent earthquake in Haiti as a context. It is obvious why such a study has not been done before, disasters and crisis are difficult topics to study, and it is also problematic to generate a causal link between planning and outcomes. Our study overcomes these research challenges using the novel method of storytelling (to produce a social truth), and deconstruction (to unpack the latent, unsaid issues within the stories) to consider the efficacy of BCP. By deconstructing stories from within organisations whose survival was threatened by the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, we study organisational responses and recovery from a natural disaster. The earthquake was a globally significant crisis, one that resulted in an estimated 230,000 deaths and 1 million people made homeless and was estimated to cost the country 15% of its GDP (World Bank, 2010). Furthermore Haiti has been subject to many natural as well as man-made disasters, which would lead one to expect a high state of readiness within organisations operating there. As a result it represents an appropriate context to research BCP. Storytelling interviews were conducted with 15 managers who had direct experience of their organisations planning and managing through the crisis, and each interview captures their personal story of before, during and after the crisis. This data set has been deconstructed (in the mould of Morningstar, 1993; and Culler, 2007) to unpack the unsaid and latent gaps and inferences in these stories; which ultimately speaks to the issue of BCP efficacy. We found that BCP greatly enhanced organisations resilience to the earthquake; even though the implementation of plans was often partial at best. Given the scale of the crisis and its unique pattern of destruction it is hard to conceive of BCP representing an operational plan for a crisis. Its main benefits proved to be as a training system and as a technical system that defined organisational redundancies. In this way, we are able to find that BCP is like Mintzberg’s broader reflection on the limits of planning- "Planning is like jogging- it’s not a very good way of getting anywhere, nor is it intended to be" (Mintzberg, 1994).
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Griffin, Ray, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


    • Business continuity planning


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