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Business Continuity

Playing Hardball

Consider the following: Baseball is the only team sport where the defense has control of the ball. The side currently in offense does not handle the ball as they would in any other sport. A player does not score in baseball by bringing the ball to the finish line or passing it through a goal, but by trying to beat the ball to a goal. This sets it apart from games like basketball, soccer, football, and many others, and adds an interesting complexity. For me, the internal mechanics of baseball are the most interesting, similar to the work that a business does to set up a Business Continuity Plan.

Situational awareness in the game relies on a player reading signs and signals from other players, both on their own team and on the opposing team. A player might need to decipher the intent of the opposing player on 2nd base, and then relay back to the batter what the next pitch may be. A player might also need to relay signs on what the next pitch is from the middle infielders to the outfielders, so that they know where to position themselves or in what direction to take their first step.

My passion for baseball comes from a love of the strategy involved. The same type of strategy that makes a chess game so intriguing to watch also makes baseball continually exciting. You should know your opponent, their tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, and then capitalize on that knowledge with the proper timing, all while continually learning from mistakes and honing your strategies for the next opponent.

Baseball and business continuity have many similarities. For both, preparation is key in managing the quick decisions that will be made in the moment. What seems spontaneous is really built on a well-thought-out plan that must assume both unknown and known factors. In baseball it is essential to prepare your team and individual players in the off-season, in the same way that Business Continuity Plans rely on planned exercises to prepare for the incidents that will happen in real time. Groups of coaches, pitchers, batters, and infielders might split off from the main body of the team to hone their craft and practice individual skills, before rejoining the whole. In a business organization, subject matter experts work on their specific strengths and then coordinate with a larger team.

For the audience, what matters is the finished product. In baseball, this audience exists in the stands, cheering or booing as they follow the progress of their team. For a business, what matters are the customers, who are no less exacting in the level of polish that they demand. The final result stands on its own: the long ball or standing up an infrastructure for a fortune 100; the squeeze bunt or a well-executed notification system that sends an alert to employees.

Baseball and business continuity have levels of complexity that only those who are practitioners or players can appreciate. Many other people see only the results of what seem like spontaneous decisions, but which are actually built on multiple layers of preparation. When all these players come together in concert, bringing together an organization and solidifying the finished product, everyone wants to be a part of it.