No, not that kind of testing and exercising! Today we’re talking about the Program Management Cycle. When creating and assessing your emergency plan, recovery plan, or continuity of operations plan, there are four steps in the cycle:
Specifically we are looking at the evaluation and correction part of the cycle, where testing and exercising the plan will help you identify weaknesses and make changes. Testing confirms (or not) that processes and procedures function as intended; exercising provides practice of the processes and procedures.
Take, for example, a situation where your building in New York City has been severely damaged by flood water. Your continuity of operations plan indicates that your employees will move off site for a few weeks to the Jersey City office of your organization. Testing the plan may include something like making sure that the Jersey City office can accommodate the extra personnel, extra bandwidth, and extra expenses. Exercising the plan may include something like having your New York City employees experience a work situation where their computers and desks are non-functional and they have to get back on their feet using a newly issued laptop computer. (This exercise could be performed by having employees congregate in a meeting room and be issued different laptops and ask them to get back up and running. An exercise like this might actually encourage your employees to be better about backing up their work and organizing their desktops [both literal and technical desktops].)
Testing and exercising your plan – and then documenting the outcome – will give your leadership concrete ideas of what does and does not work, and, ultimately, this should spur them on correct the plan.