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Post-Incident Analysis

Published on March 18, 2021

Successfully making it out of business disruption is not enough in today's crazy, volatile world. You need to be able to look back at it all and draw the right conclusions that will help your company move forward with confidence and room for growth.

Post-incident analysis, or PIA, is applied in many fields without hesitation. When a soccer team loses an important match, you can be sure that the manager will haunt his players with video reviews of the crucial mistakes they've made in the game. The same goes for armies that conduct after-action reports, as well as a variety of different industries. Unfortunately, the world of business is still reluctant to use that sort of thinking when recovering from a disaster. Post-incident analysis should be a crucial part of your business continuity plan, as it can make for an incredible opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your company. In this article, we're going to take a look at the key elements of these analyses, as well as why it is important to carry them out after major disruptions.

Why Conduct a Post-Incident Analysis?

A good question to ask would be, "How can you improve the performance of a system that has just failed?" and the answer to that question is simple: you should focus on making sure that the next time it breaks, there are fewer cracks in its foundation. Taking the time to turn a disaster into a learning opportunity is crucial for business. Why is that the case? Because when it comes to strict deadlines, business continuity plans, and powerful financial incentives, there is a lot of pressure building up and any opportunity that would alleviate it is worth taking.

Any disruption, no matter how small, is an opportunity to analyze and improve your business continuity plan. Going from inaction to action is the first step a crisis management team should try taking right after the incident. When the staff members recognize that they need to change how they do things and that those changes will be beneficial in the long term, everything will become a whole lot easier. Even more importantly, your colleagues will see the disaster as an incentive to improve their performance, not as a burden that the company should carry on its shoulders. Taking this into account, using an after-incident analysis should be an integral part of your company's post-disaster procedure. It is a valuable tool for moderating financial losses and improving the performance of your business.

The 5 What's

The process of working through the analysis of what went wrong is often referred to as the "5 What's". Once you overcome the initial shock, take the time to ask yourself these questions:

  • What happened?
  • What went wrong?
  • What were the external causes that led to the problem?
  • What were the internal causes that led to the problem?
  • What could have we done better?

By applying this method to your post-disaster analysis, you will get much more value out of it and receive clear, actionable recommendations you can apply right away. This approach to the analysis allows you to look at all aspects of the incident: whether they are related to technical or human errors, as well as other things that might have had a great influence on how your business performed. Once you are done, it is very easy to divide everything into clear categories and tackle any problems one by one.

The 5 Whys

You need to analyze what happened by applying the 5 Whys technique. Basically, you need to ask yourself "why" questions at least five times, up until you reach the root cause of the disruption.

For example, something as simple as "Why did the disaster happen in the first place?" will expose the mistakes you have made. Consequently, you will be able to make sure that such a situation will not happen again. In most cases, using this technique uncovers the truth faster than complex software solutions, which involve some really complicated automated processes.

Then, in order to make this technique even more effective, you need four other individuals to go through the same process. Have them ask five different "why?" questions, recording responses as you go. Why are we burning all this valuable time of decision-makers trying to prove their technical background? Why don't we engage every stakeholder directly? Why aren't we convinced that this is not all about exclusive technical solutions and government policies? Why is it that we are just sitting there letting techies take away the responsibility for our own business? Surely, it won't take too much time to come up with similar questions at your company. Additionally, it is a great opportunity to start a conversation and encourage your employees to make suggestions for further improvements.

The Bottom Line

Changing your approach to disasters is definitely worth trying out. It is a great method of determining what's wrong that is bound to help your employees look beyond trying to find weaknesses in the systems involved and try finding improvements right away. Clear up any doubts and prove that your rapid business recovery planning is a powerful tool. That way, you will show others that you are serious about crisis management. There is no reason for you not to give it a try, so start applying post-incident analyses to your business continuity plan today!