--> Gill Blog: One Size Fits All vs. Scenario-Based Planning

Gill Blog

Monday, September 22, 2003

One Size Fits All vs. Scenario-Based Planning

I want to use an analogy using hats. Because I wasn't around in ther era of the classic fedora (went the way of the buggy whip when JFK became President), I will talk about baseball hats. I played competitive ball until I was 18, and in fact made our high school team (apparently, I had been told I threw a ball "like a girl", but I made the team due to my rah-rah attitude) (by the way, about throwing like a girl? completely incorrect -- most girls I have known in fact throw a baseball much better than I do). I digress.

When it came to ballcaps, we were issued a standard "one size fits all" number with either a crumpled elastic strap adjuster on the back, or one of those nifty plastic adjusto-straps with the plastic nubs. Although we were told these were the best available, they mostly disappointed. If your head was too small, the cap would take on the form of a miniature straight jacket, and heaven forbid, if your head was too big, and the adjusto-strap was maxed to its last position where the responsibility of holding that hat on the head of a huge cranium was put on the shoulders of a single plastic nub, the cap assumed the proportional appearance of a beanie. On the other hand, there was (and still is today) a company called New Era that made amazing caps that were fitted precisely to the size of your head -- simply masterpieces, but boy oh boy, they were expensive.

Last week, I attended a special interest group session of bcp professionals who discussed whether BC plans should take on a one-size fits all approach to plan formation, or craft plans based on specific scenarios (like the New Era cap, a fitted solution, but one that comes at a price). A very interesting topic indeed with really no right or wrong answers. Unfortunately, I found my own experience dealing with this type of dilemma from my baseball days not particularly applicable in this forum, so I thought it best to keep my mouth shut, but do some poking around after the session.

When the Federal Reserve and the SEC first addressed the issue of standardized sound practices in the first draft of the Interagency Paper on the Resilience of the US Financial Industry, it had effectively crafted a "one size fits all" solution, but over time, these recommendations were scaled back (see blog entry of July 7 for details). Those who took a leading role in having changes made, including New York Senator Chuck Shumer argued that because planning required more of a scenario-based approach, a one size fits all strategy was simply not appropriate. Shumer opted for this position because implementing the plan unchanged, would have further contributed to weakening his state's economy. This shows that the ultimate decisions that are made are based on factors that extend beyond the scenario-based or standardized planning, and actually work hand in hand with areas such as cost benefit analysis, and business impact analysis.

In the end though, it might not be one or the other, but perhaps a hybrid between the two approaches. Standard one-size fits all approaches are taken in accordance with an organization's particular threshold for operational downtime. Although there may be more than one scenario, each one uses a set of pre-determined templates. The approach is complicated, but very logical nonetheless.

And to think that I thought picking baseball caps was tough.


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