When a company finds itself on a burning platform, it’s in a desperate situation with no good choices. The burning platform metaphor derives from a real disaster in 1988, when an oil rig in the North Sea caught alight. The worst oil rig disaster to date, it resulted in 166 deaths.One of the 63 saved was a man named Andy Mochan, who chose to jump into the freezing North Sea rather than be fried alive. Against all the odds, Mochan was rescued within a few minutes, and lived to tell the tale.

“The real point is that on a burning platform, the only options are poor, bad and disastrous,” notes Miles Murray, GM: Sales at ContinuitySA, presenting a webinar as part of Business Continuity Awareness Week for

“In that sense, a burning platform is the worst possible catalyst for a change that leads to a positive outcome. To the contrary, I believe that to be effective, change needs to be incremental and well thought out. Business continuity management has a vital role to play in helping companies avoid finding themselves on a burning platform, and in identifying the changes that need to be made early on.”

Business continuity provides the alternative course of action, or Plan B, in case the official strategy, or Plan A, fails. Creating a business continuity plan is thus an important activity not only because it is a way of mitigating risk, but also because it forces the business to identify what could go wrong, and where its weaknesses are.

In other words, creating Plan B leads to improving Plan A; thus creating a virtuous cycle that builds a company’s resilience. One could see it as an evolution of the scenario planning that Shell popularised as a way not to predict the future, but to integrate all the organisational processes that take place in a company: strategy-making, innovation, risk management, public relations and leadership development. Business continuity management doesn’t just look at the big picture; it delves down into the individual components of all the organisational processes as well.

Michael Brown, who co-presented with Murray and is an Account Manager at ContinuitySA, recommends using Porter’s value chain to understand the interdependencies between business processes, and key weaknesses.

“A lot of the elements of business continuity are being undertaken already because studying the value chain is something businesspeople do—what we’re doing is making the process a little more scientific,” Brown comments.
He adds that a key element is the need for leadership—business continuity planning does not happen automatically.

“Aside from leadership, frequent testing is critical for successful business continuity management. A business continuity plan is like a reserve parachute—frequent testing is necessary to be sure that when you need it, it works!” Murray concludes.