When was the last time you sent out an invite for a business continuity (BC) or disaster recovery (DR) exercise and got back a “woo-hoo”? If you are responsible for a BC or DR program you know how difficult it can be to get people to come to your exercise, let alone express enthusiasm about it. Exercises are serious business, but with some inspiration from popular party games you can let participants have a little fun while raising awareness about your BC management (BCM) program.

Party Game 1: Sticky Heads

Girl with sticky note on forehead

This is a common parlour game in which participants are each assigned the name of a celebrity and must guess who they are. Adapting this idea to center around BCM roles and responsibilities is simple: the exercise facilitator creates a list of the different roles on their BC, crisis management, DR and related teams. The list might include:

  • Crisis Management Team Leader
  • Incident Recorder
  • DR Lead
  • BC Coordinator
  • Media Spokesperson

The facilitator writes each of these roles on a sticky note and passes them out to exercise participants. Each participant then turns to the participant on his or her right and places the sticky note onto that person’s forehead. This leaves everyone able to see the notes on everyone else’s forehead except their own.

To play the game, each participant must try to guess who they are by asking only yes or no questions. For instance, asking, “Am I allowed to speak to the media?” might get a “yes” if you’re the Media Spokesperson, or a “no” if you’re a DR Lead.

Depending on the size of the group, you might ask participants to take turns asking questions, or if you have multiple facilitators, allow the group to mingle with each other to try and figure out who they are. Not only will this help solidify participants’ understanding of the different roles and their responsibilities, it also will expose knowledge gaps in a non-threatening environment. The activity brings to light any roles and responsibilities that have not been defined — for instance, your organization may not yet define who is or is not allowed to speak to the media.  For this reason, it’s best to have enough exercise facilitators to observe most or all of the interactions (and help provide answers when people don’t know them).

After everyone discovers their BCM identity don’t forget to debrief to find out what people learned and what they still want to know.

Party Game 2: Two Truths & A Lie

This game is a good option if your exercise attendees include team members with different areas of expertise about company functions and BC competencies. “Two truths and a lie” is traditionally played by each person taking turns telling three statements about themselves while the other players guess which one of those three is false. For instance, here are two truths and a lie about Lootok:

  • “Lootok” is a Hopi word meaning “the day after tomorrow.”
  • Lootok is a BCM consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.
  • Lootok uses an approach called activity-based data collection to drive adoption and learning.

In this case, the second statement was the lie (Lootok is based in New York City).

So, how do we put a BC spin on this? Encourage participants to prepare three risk- and continuity-related statements about their area of the business that the other team members may not know — make sure two are facts and one is a falsehood. Provide an example to focus these efforts on statements that are relevant to BC. For example, a finance manager might provide the following statements:

  • Only one member of our team has the authority to deposit checks.
  • Without access to the Internet, we can only perform one of our six critical tasks.
  • If SAP went down for more than an hour, we would be fined $50k by the FFIEC.

The result is that team members share lesser-known and surprising facts about areas of the business that may have come from a BIA or merit attention from a BC perspective. In the above example the debrief might include discussions about how to reduce the risk of a single-point-of-failure, enhance internet resiliency or establish backup options. After this game and discussion you should have a solid list of action items for increasing resiliency.

Party Game 3: Line Up

“Line up” is an icebreaker in which people have to find something about one another, such as age or alphabetical names, and line up in order. This game works well if you’re conducting an exercise against an ordered set of procedures in your BC or DR plan.

To modify this game for use in plan testing, print or write the procedures on strips of paper and give each participant a folded strip containing a single procedure. Now, instruct the participants to line up based on the order in which their procedures should take place. For example, if the first procedure in your plan is to “Assemble the BC team” and the second is to “Notify senior management,” the people holding those two procedures should be standing first and second in the line.

During this game participants are forced to share notes with each other and discuss what they think is the best order as they arrange themselves in this fashion. To add a competitive edge to the game, divide the room into two groups and see which can get in the correct order first — the prospect of winning against co-workers tends to pump up the energy during an exercise.

Active Learning

Although it can take some getting used to in an office environment, gaming is an excellent way to increase learning retention and enhance teaming. Research shows we learn best in a friendly, social and interactive environment; we also prefer to be involved in our learning — not just by listening but also by talking, describing, reflecting on and interacting with the information we receive. By facilitating this active learning process for participants you can make your next BC exercise more effective and highly memorable.