Orientations, simulations, functional or full-scale exercises, or tabletops are all alternatives for a firm ready to test its plans, depending on whatever component of the plan it wishes to test and its readiness level. Tabletop exercises, which are one of the most popular ways to test and analyze pandemic preparations, can improve group problem-solving under pressure and improve your company’s preparedness if they are properly designed, carefully conducted, completely evaluated, and used.
This 10-step method is highly recommended if you decide to implement a tabletop exercise.
How to Conduct a Pandemic Tabletop Exercise
1. Evaluate Your Business Continuity Plan in the Event of a Pandemic
To begin, ensure that your company’s plan is thorough and ready to be put to the test. In this situation, you may hold an informative tabletop to flesh out the plan’s contents. Bear in mind that the purpose of a tabletop exercise is to ensure that your preparations are viable, thorough, and implementable in the event of a pandemic. Pay attention to the section of the plan that outlines the area you’re most keen on testing—telecommunications, for instance—as you go through your evaluation.
2. Establish a Goal for the Action
Goals can vary from ensuring that critical work functions stay operational during a pandemic to examining potential changes in human resources policy. Your company’s previous, current, and future planning actions should all be reflected in the goal. If procedures haven’t been created yet, for example, your purpose might be to inform participants about the unique issues posed by a pandemic so that any necessary processes can be identified. Goals might be very specific or very broad.
3. Organize a Design Team for the Exercise
Delegate the exercise design to a small number of individuals who are a natural match for the role. Select employees who are familiar with how CEOs engage to test executive communications, for instance. There should be no members of the design team participating in the activity. Typical design team members will need to gather for at least one hour four to six times to build an effective exercise.
4. Create a List of Exercise Objectives
Detailed objectives help you establish a scenario, ensure that everyone understands what needs to be done, organize the modules, and offer a foundation for the after-action report. When identifying objectives, it’s also a good idea to remember the acronym SMART. Each goal should be as follows:
- Simple: Simply and clearly express yourself in your language.
- Measurable: Set the bar high enough for results to be seen.
- Achievable: Ascertain that the goal can be met using the resources available to your company.
- Realistic: Give a realistic assessment of the exercise.
- Task-oriented: Concentrate on a specific behavior or activity, preferably an individual problem.
5. Create a Scenario for the Exercise
The scenario should be built around the goals. Participants in your company are provided with a scenario designed to assess the communication objective in a typical tabletop exercise, for instance. Each participant is asked to describe how they would respond in each of the scenarios.
6. Determine Who the Players Are
Participants could be employees or others who are vital to the company’s success. The CEO, COO, and members of the finance, human resources, and public relations sections, as well as contractors, suppliers, and supply-chain partners could be among them. Choose between 25 and 40 people to participate.
7. Decide on a Format
The framework should be based on your goals and objectives. The following seating configurations are examples of highly recommended formats:
- Each department should work collaboratively.
- Various departments can be merged by geographical location.
- Employees from the same country or office should be grouped.
8. Develop Scripts and Data Injects
The design team can then move on to designing the script and data injects once the scenario has been determined. These are also new facts that the participants must take into account.
9. Handle Facilitation Concerns
The exercise should be led by either a moderator or a facilitator. A meeting is presided over by a moderator, whereas a facilitator serves as a neutral third party who assists a group in refining its process and therefore increasing its performance.
10. Make a Plan for the Post-Action Report
Assign a report-writing task to someone adept at observing, taking notes, and writing. Before you begin the exercise, choose someone who will simply serve as an observer and who is prepared to put in the effort to write a solid report based on who will read it, how the data will be utilized, and what action will be taken.