Monday, February 22, 2010

Staff Planning for Critical Tasks

I was recently reminded of the time I spent a few years ago assisting my client in preparing a matrix of critical job functions and primary and secondary staff that would perform the tasks. This was prompted by a sequence of events where the usual staff that perform the tasks were out sick and the secondary were on vacation. Consequently the important work ended not being accomplished as it was of a sensitive security nature and just anyone couldn’t login and perform the task. Senior management then came in with the edict that such a situation must never occur again. Therefore, we found ourselves documenting the matrix and a plan for what should happen if both the primary and secondary staff were unavailable.

Of course, the obvious lesson in all of this is plan ahead for such contingencies and you won’t be caught with your pants down at the crucial moment when they do happen. A plan to prepare properly for critical tasks from a staffing point of view would consist of:

  • Identifying the critical tasks and the resources necessary to perform them and the scheduling limitations involved.

  • Documenting the steps involved and the various procedures

  • Identifying the critical staff members – both primary and secondary

  • Perform practice runs. Simulate a crisis situation and invoke the plan. See if it works out and if not, make the necessary changes to ensure it works right

  • Plan and setup the primary and secondary staff to work from a different location (or home)

  • At a higher level, plan to reduce the necessity of performing the critical task or create a workaround if there is a staff crisis situation. This would possibly necessitate the involvement of senior management and other departments but would be potentially very useful in a crisis situation.

These are some of the typical, basic steps to take to ensure adequate staff coverage at all times. Of course, specific situations will warrant specific steps and readers should plan for their specific situations accordingly. However, the steps above should be a good starting point. The important thing to do is to plan before the crisis actually hits.

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