Standard Recovery? Recovery Standards?

Standard Recovery? Recovery Standards?

In two week’s time, I’m moderating a conference panel session entitled Standards in Recovery: Are we getting it right and what have we learnt from recent incidents? 

This blog is an attempt to organise my thoughts and set out my own views, rather than to reach any particular conclusions!

On the face of it, standards seem like a good idea in anything; normalising complicated processes or ensuring homogenous technical precision. However, you don’t have to look too far before you realise that the issue of standards is polarizing and fraught with challenges.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be useful, just that extra care is needed in their development and application, as well as the performance management which flows from them.

Standards came to prominence around the time of the Industrial Revolution, allowing manufacturing industries to regularise processes and reduce waste. Things we take for granted are the result of standards which have developed over long durations.

I can easily conceive of, and ascribe value to, standards for ‘technical’ things. Even if I’m not an expert in the subject, I can see why it would be advantageous to standardise things like:

  • How much electricity comes out of your sockets.
  • How bright your lightbulbs are.
  • How can you be confident your eggs are salmonella free.

I can also see that standardising language/terminology would be helpful in establishing a shared understanding.

However, I find it harder to see how a meaningful standard can be developed for the complex set of processes associated with emergency recovery. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, there is a seemingly endless range of questions and possible answers about what recovery is, and how it should be done.

So I turned to Lewis Carrol to see if he had any wisdom…

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ asked Alice.

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where –’ 

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ 

Can we really know what we’re recovering from until an incident happens? If there isn’t a fixed destination for recovery, how will we know we’re there?

So, looking forward to the conference session, here are some of the questions that I’ll have in reserve for my esteemed panel members to respond to:

  • Just what is ‘recovery’ in the context of an emergency?
  • In their experience, when does ‘recovery’ start and finish?
  • What do you think a standard for recovery would look like?
  • Should a standard for recovery be specific or allow for flexibility? If it gives too much room for manoeuvre is it really a standard?
  • Have emergency responder organisations already adopted any of the standards out there? What has been their experience and how can we learn from it?
  • Is there a danger that standards become increasingly complex over time and require disproportionate effort to maintain and measure against?

What’s your perspective on these issues? My experience is that, as a profession, recovery is overlooked in favour of areas which are arguably easier to measure impact or seen to be more exciting.

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