4 Lessons Learnt from London 2012

By Dominic Cockram

The London Olympics 2012 was a huge success, with Team GB surpassing all expectations and Olympic fever gripping the country – all without any major incident. Many have compared it to Y2K as ‘a lot of fuss over nothing’, but without the years of planning and preparation of all those involved, it could have been a very different story. From a business continuity perspective, the Games were an undisputed success – but there are still (as always) lessons to be learnt.

At BCM World last week, members of LOCOG, BT, the Canary Wharf Group and the BBC spoke about what they had learnt from the experience. These were their main conclusions:

1.    Communication is Critical

There was general agreement that this was the most challenging – and the most important – aspect of planning and response. Communication channels and relations built over the Olympics will be an enduring legacy of the Games. The main challenges highlighted by the speakers were:

  • Identifying stakeholders at an early stage
  • Ensuring internal communication and openness during preparations
  • Liaising with the 22,000 media representatives in London for the Olympic Games, and maintaining key messages throughout the preparation and duration of the London 2012

2.    Keep it Simple

The verdict on this one was unanimous: the more straightforward, easier to understand and familiar business continuity plans, teams and processes are, the better they will work. None of the organisations represented re-wrote their plans for the Games; instead they built on ones that already existed and processes that people were familiar with.

3.    Know who’s boss

Leaders always emerge in times of crisis, but these individuals may not have the authority to sanction important decisions. Through rehearsals, those with leadership qualities were identified, as were those who were able to authorise certain actions. Discrepancies in roles and abilities, plus confusion over who had primacy in which areas were ironed out during rehearsals.

4.    Confidence comes through readiness

There were over 200 desktop exercises and over 50 simulation exercises in the run up to the opening ceremony. These were designed to test procedures, contingencies and prepare the teams. By the time the Games opened, every team on every site at every time of day had the confidence to lead or participate in an effective response. The concluding message of the panel’s discussion was ‘test, test, and test again’.

While the Olympics may not return to the UK any time soon (although this is the official ultimate contingency plan for Rio 2016!), the Games have strengthened the resilience of UK organisations by improving their ability to prepare for major events, communicate effectively with one another and respond to disruption effectively and with minimal impact to business as usual.

Learn more about business continuity planning and crisis management exercises on our website.
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About Dominic Cockram

Founder and MD of Steelhenge. Pioneer of simulation exercises with over 20 years experience in business continuity and crisis management. Dominic is an experienced speaker determined to make the world a more resilient place.

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