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In the second of a series of articles following Santa Claus and his first attempt at resilience planning, Paul Kudray looks at how a near-miss in 2014 helped Santa to understand that even his organization isn’t too big to fail…

Last week I updated you on the resilience planning Santa and his organization are undertaking. The entire Claus team want to make sure they’re resilient and Santa’s able to sprinkle his magic around the world later this month. Santa (the real one) admitted he’s previously had a bit of a Hohoho attitude towards resilience planning! “It’s never going to happen here” he always used to say; nothing can stop Santa in his mission to get around to everyone’s home, just in time and be back home with Mrs C and the elves before you could say: ‘aww thanks… these socks are just what I wanted!’

Ride on time

But last year - unbeknownst to all of us and Santa’s stakeholders - there was a real crisis going on in the organization that almost saw the skies fall off the sleigh (so to speak). Christmas last year was a real ‘by the seat of his big red pants’ moment! It nearly didn’t happen. Christmas past for Santa could well have been Christmas last! His organization and his global reputation would have been well and truly shattered if it wasn’t for a little bit of luck!

Last year – just like all the previous years before that – was unplanned. The general feeling amongst the leadership team was Santa didn’t need resilience. He was Santa!

There was a race against time. Not just to deliver his services across the world. But to stop any bad news getting out of Santa HQ! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the many other social media networks could have left Santa and his team queuing for seasonal jobs this Christmas, as they watched a new supplier take over the contract of bringing joy on Christmas Day. I don’t think it’s indiscreet of me to say that Amazon were interested!

Your sighting of Santa in 2015 could have been ‘working as a waiter in a cocktail bar…’

Fairytale of New York

Santa and his team didn’t accept that their services could be under threat from any sort of disruptive challenge before last year. They’d seen it all before - including that heavy snowy Christmas in Bedford Falls when George Bailey shouted ‘merry Christmas everybody’.

Because of the pressure at Claus HQ, elves would sadly find themselves needing to call in sick when the big push was on! Staff shortages at high peak demands… relying on the Internet and courier companies to deliver something Santa could then pop under the tree for you whilst you slept… Santa knew who he relied on and what to do. It was miraculous how he could cross time zones and cultures to deliver fairy tales wherever in the world he was expected to be.

Can you stop the cavalry?

Suddenly though, on the morning of the 23rd December (I’ll always remember the date, because it happens to be my birthday), Santa and his top management team, were made aware of an issue that threatened the whole operation. His ops team (the elves who did the bulk of the work behind the scenes), raised an issue to the tactical elves (those who worked out how the doers would do the doing).

Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet and Cupid were missing! Only Donner and Blitzen were in the stables and they’d been asleep and were as confused as everyone else to find the others gone. It was a potential disaster!

The missing cavalry meant no transportation for Santa to pull the sleigh the next night! Panic stations. What will the customers think? What about our reputation? Could Santa hire a fleet of aeroplanes, use the trains and make do with vans? What about the bus? Which bus? Where does it stop? How much is it to Pennsylvania from Lapland?

Oh dear, Santa and his elves had never considered there being no access to transport? It had always been there before! What was Santa going to do?

Little Drummer Boy

Faldafeykir started questioning everyone, to find out who was the last elf to see Rudolph and the others, what time and where? Apparently – unfortunately – they’d last been seen six hours previously, going into the Little Drummer Boy pub. Santa felt a little bit sad because he hadn’t been invited to what was beginning to sound like a party – but that’s what some staff do – they don’t invite their bosses (even when their boss is Santa!)

Oh come all ye faithful

Just as Stekkjarstaur started to Google ‘reindeers for hire’ in pranced Rudolph and the others, bright eyed, bushy tailed and just slightly surprised to find – what appeared to be – some kind of party going on! Reindeers don’t drink alcohol of course; they prefer faddy drinks like kale smoothies! Besides which, you can’t drink and fly at any time of the year. No no said Santa.

Panic over, Santa and the Claus team got by because of the very conscious reindeer. But Santa knew they were very lucky. He’d never realised how vulnerable they were! A spiked carrot and cauliflower smoothie could have pushed Rudolph over the limit – which may have made his nose much brighter, but he couldn’t have led the sleigh!

Have yourself a merry business impact analysis (BIA)

This year, Santa and the Claus team are not taking any chances. They’ve undertaken a full set of BIAs to make sure they know all the threats to their organization and its mission objectives. They even consider those nasty cyber threats to the ‘Santranet’! They knew who they relied on for external help over the small hours of Christmas Eve/Day morning – including you and I (ssshh…)!

Santa’s incident management systems (SIMS)

The organization completed the BIAs without too much pain and heartache. Mainly because Stekkjarstaur, Stufur, Faldafeykir and Thvorusleikir had embedded resilience across the workforce through: good awareness campaigns; workshops; exercises; and e-bulletins. All supported by great training from the KCL team, helping the nominated leads. Everyone in the organization accepted resilience as a quality element to keep them all employed and to maintain the services to the public.

Santa then implemented the Santa incident management system (SIMS) to enable a response structure as part of the design phase. Now Santa and his team have a more organized process for dealing with incidents - such as the case of missing reindeers, rather than making it up as they going along. Through sound threat assessments, they had a far better documented idea of what could go wrong and how to deal with it.

All I want for Christmas

Whilst Santa HQ, are busy sorting out the millions of letters and wishes for people across the world, the shops near to our own homes get busier.

The work continues in your workplace; there will be advent calendars with chocolates inside, family sized boxes of biscuits (and emails asking who took the last the jammy dodger?); imitation Christmas trees on their last legs, with old mismatched decorations and a few ‘creative’ additions. There is generally a good feeling about what lies ahead; expectation and hope (as well as panic over what still needs doing).

Whatever you want for Christmas, I hope you get. But for now, rest assured - Santa and his team are moving on to the next stage of developing their contingency plans, before giving them a quick test to validate them. We will see how they get on next week. The proof’s not just in the Christmas pudding!

The author

Paul KudrayAn international leader in business resilience consultancy, training and coaching; Paul Kudray, MSc FICPEM CBCI AMBCI, is an ex-emergency services commander who finished an exemplary 32 year career in the UK healthcare sector, working for the NHS - culminating in 7½ years as the Director of Resilience for one of the world’s largest ambulance services, NWAS NHS Trust. He now works with private and public sector clients around the world, training, advising, coaching and mentoring them at the highest levels about emergency and business continuity management. Paul's company is KCLContact Paul at or via LinkedIn 

Read part one of the Santa’s resilience planning series.

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