11 Ways to Overcome Contingency Planning Obstacles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations typically develop contingency plans to ensure uninterrupted services for their clients if disruptions to regular operations occur. Challenges to this planning process are common, as threats often seem unlikely, and there's no sense of urgency. Understanding these challenges and how to overcome them while developing backup plans can help an organisation prepare for potential setbacks. In this article, we discuss what contingency planning is and list 11 ways to overcome challenges when developing backup plans.

What is contingency planning?

The primary aim of a contingency plan is to restore and maintain critical business operations. Contingency planning involves taking a proactive approach that outlines the steps team members can take in response to a specific event. Contingency plans are strategic arrangements that minimise the impact of unforeseen circumstances across all stages of service delivery. Planning for various events is an important part of business continuity, disaster recovery and risk management.

Contingency plans can help an organisation manage problems relating to the following:

  • Natural disasters

  • Environmental factors

  • Infrastructure and facilities

  • Partners

  • Employee talent

  • Markets

  • Political factors

  • Trade

  • Price fluctuations

11 ways to overcome contingency planning challenges

The following are 11 ways for an organisation to overcome the challenges that arise when creating contingency plans:

1. Schedule a planning time

Contingency plans involve preparing for events that have a low probability of happening, which can lower the urgency of creating them. You can overcome this challenge by scheduling a time to complete your plan. To convince other team members to prioritise contingency planning, tell them about the importance of it by showing them how these plans can protect their work and lead to successful projects.

Related: Planning: Meaning, Benefits, Types and Typical Components

2. Identify risks and plans with your team

To determine the risks that your organisation may face, identify worst-case scenarios that could affect a specific operation. For example, drought is likely to affect farming operations but isn't a top threat to a software company. Once you identify the top risks, arrange them in order of probability. The most likely events can be the focus of your contingency plan.

Involving your team in developing the plan can raise their level of buy-in and create a sense of ownership. For each hypothetical scenario, consider which course of action may be best. It's useful to explore several options rather than decide on the first suggestion. Discuss each scenario with your team, as they may have experienced similar events that can help them determine which strategies work and which don't. If the course of action you decide on differs vastly from the previous approach, discuss this with management.

Related: 12 Business Risk Examples (Plus Risk Management Benefits)

3. Explain the benefits of having a contingency plan

To help your team understand the value of developing a contingency plan, consider communicating the following benefits:

  • Saves time and expense: Teams respond to unexpected incidents faster when there's a plan to follow. Having a plan minimises downtime and protects employees from harm, prevents equipment damage and reduces the effects of the event.

  • Promotes action and prevents panic: Team members can take action by following the steps in the plan. Defining tasks can help employees stay calm, as they know what to do at any moment, giving them time to help others if necessary.

  • Allows for quick recovery: Teams know what to do and can get operations running again if they follow a plan. Contingency plans reduce the time spent gathering information and making decisions.

  • Minimises physical damage: Management can make safety decisions quickly, which reduces the damage done to the facility in the event of a physical threat. Plans may cover safety aspects such as evacuation routes, emergency responders' contact details and the location and maintenance of onsite safety equipment.

  • Maintains brand reputation: Brand reputation management refers to how a business reacts to unexpected events. Contingency plans benefit customers by reducing the impact of incidents on service delivery, which may help the company maintain a positive reputation.

  • Offers a comprehensive understanding of organisational risks: Leadership teams go through a methodical process to create a contingency plan, which can help them identify all potential risks. Contingency planning helps teams see beyond the obvious and readies them for various circumstances.

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees with 11 Impactful Strategies

4. Provide a contingency budget

Part of establishing a viable contingency plan is ensuring that the organisation has the finances to implement the plan. Consider each solution's potential costs and develop a budget to cover those expenses. For example, a company may pay for data security, staff training and insurance. Creating a budget can help you evaluate which plans are possible and practical to implement.

5. Evaluate who to inform

For each scenario, identify the key people to inform about what to ensure that the plan works. Assign roles and responsibilities to team members to ensure the plan's success. Ensure that all team members understand the following:

  • What the plan is

  • Why it's important

  • How they contribute to the plan

Related: What Is a Crisis Communication Plan? (With Strategies)

6. Evaluate training requirements

Check that each team member knows how to do the assigned tasks. Evaluate whether they require further training and provide them with the resources to fulfil their role in the contingency plan. Well-prepared team members are more likely to invest in the strategy and believe in its potential.

Related: How to Get Employees Excited about Training: 12 Top Tips

7. Run contingency plan drills

Consider running contingency drills to test each team member's understanding of their role and assess the recovery capabilities of the plan. Drills can highlight any gaps in the following five key areas of each step:

  • Who is on the action team?

  • What do they do?

  • When do they do their part?

  • Where does the plan take place?

  • How is the plan going to happen?

8. Use risk management tools for planning

Risk management tools reveal all potential events that may pose a risk. With an emphasis on forecasting, assessing and analysing risk, risk management software can make the planning process quicker and more accurate. You can use the data received from risk management tools to organise and arrange your plans.

Related: 10 Risk and Compliance Tools (Plus Guide and FAQS)

9. Use simple language and job titles

Use simple language when writing a contingency plan to help all readers understand it, allowing them to act quickly. Try to limit each step to one or two actions to make the plan simple to follow. Because existing employees may change shifts and new employees may join the team, write the contingency plan using job titles instead of names. This allows you to make use of the plans for a longer period, even if the team members are no longer the same.

10. Distribute the plan and include benefits

Show your approved contingency plan to key team members and any other key stakeholders. Giving team members copies means they can refer to the plan when necessary. Encourage employees to keep their copies accessible, as taking quick action is important.

11. Keep the plan current

Consider revisiting your contingency document to update the information. Contingency plans may change due to emerging technology, internal operational changes or new governmental regulations. Some organisations review their contingency plans biannually to keep them up to date. Effective contingency plans meet the operational needs of an organisation and may evolve as it develops.

Tips for effective contingency plans

Consider the following tips to help you overcome the challenges of creating, implementing and updating contingency plans:

  • Plan proactively. Create contingency plans even though you may never use them.

  • Create a contingency team. Establish a team that initiates the plan when necessary, and regularly review the team members.

  • Provide contingency training. Train team members to keep the plan fresh and update it when necessary.

  • Maintain contingency equipment: Conduct regular maintenance on any equipment that's part of the contingency plan to ensure that it works when needed.

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