Tag Archive for exercises

Disaster Recovery Tests: Please DO Feed the Animals

This past weekend, my 7 yr old son and I visited our own little disaster site in the hopes of doing a little cleanup work – his bedroom!  My challenge was to make it fun enough for him to participate in the effort with as little whining and crying as possible.  It occurred to me that this was very similar to the challenge I, and others, have when trying to get folks to participate on a business continuity and/or disaster recovery test.

Let’s face it folks – we can really be a pain in the backside to these people who have better and “funner things to do” – as my son put it this weekend.

I know with the budget crunches going on and the all out efforts to cut costs it is hard to get too creative with this stuff, but I still think it is worth the effort and expense to reward your test/exercise participants with snacks, meals, refreshments and the like, if not also with some kind of other tchochke item.  In the past, I have seen testers give out tee shirts, coffee mugs, and other stuff as reward for participating on tests.  One creative planner, used to have snacks tied to a theme; like ice cream cones over the summer; or hot dogs for a test scheduled during the World Series; etc.

I know this sounds corny and I see many of you rolling your eyes (yeah, this blog technology is scary – I am watching you), but these little gestures go a long way with winning good favor with those we rely on to get tests scheduled and completed.  They also can soften the impact of failures you will undoubtedly experience along the way.

Well, by singing songs, counting stuff we put away, making a game out of throwing stuff in the trash and a promise of a Dairy Queen Blizzard after the job was done – the disaster area that was my son’s bedroom finally got clean.  Now all we need to do is administer CPR to his mother who fainted when she saw what we had accomplished!

Tests, Exercises and Drills

I know this just adds to the “jargon problem” I so often talk about in my blog posts, but today I am going to use our words to differentiate program testing techniques.

It has become in vogue to say: “We do not ‘test’ our plans; we ‘exercise’ our plans.  Testing implies pass/fail while exercising implies getting stronger.  We do exercises to strengthen our programs.”  (I used to say this, too.  That’s how come I’ve got it down so well.)

Well, that’s great and good – I think exercises are crucial and you do indeed want to strengthen your program – but, I don’t think you only exercise alone.  I think there are times when, indeed, you do want to test your programs, give them a pass/fail grade as a means of validating the ability of the plans and solutions to meet your recovery/continuity objectives.

In fact, I think the first thing you want to do is to “test” your program.  Make sure that it works.  Put it to the test.  Once you have proven the solutions and strategies in place do work and can pass the test, then you start to exercise it to strengthen and improve the process.

Furthermore, I think there is a third technique to employ.  Once you have strengthened your program through a series of exercises you may want to start to construct your sessions as drills.  In a drill you simply repeat a proven and strong process over and over again to condition the participants to react in a certain way when the plans are engaged.  In the military and in martial arts, you drill over and over again to change your reflexive actions so when a particular action is required, you behave in a certain way instinctively without having to think about it, or without having to rely on an instruction manual.

So, in summary, I think in a comprehensive program you want to include:

  • Tests – to validate that the solutions and strategies work
  • Exercises – to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies in executing the solutions and strategies
  • Drills – to condition role players to respond and react in a certain way

I think most programs actually do follow this method, without really knowing it.  And, yes, most programs are at the point in the evolution where exercises are the technique they should be using – they are not quite ready for drills, yet.  I simply suggest that we do not necessarily limit our vocabulary to the use of the word ‘exercise’ at the expense of ‘test’ and ‘drills’.

After all, it would be awful if we strengthened our ability to act in a way that couldn’t pass the test.