November 22, 2023

Last Updated on January 13, 2024

The “failure is not an option” mindset is prominent in business circles. The phrase generally indicates that those responsible are absolutely committed to success come what may and will persevere until they find a way to prevail.

But what does that potentially mean for business continuity and recovery planning? What are the implications for recovery success or failure?

This short article examines those questions in light of fundamentals for successful recovery.

Disaster recovery requires planning

Disasters and disruptions happen when we least expect them, and rain down unanticipated consequences one after another.

In today’s fast-paced, virtualized, distributed, and interconnected business environment, every organization must have a robust plan in place to recover key systems and functions quickly when disruptions occur. Reacting on the fly will significantly increase recovery time and impacts.

This is why reliance on established, well-rehearsed plans that anticipates failure scenarios is the absolute bedrock of disaster response in full-on “failure is not an option” workplaces like nuclear power plants and air traffic control towers.

Roots of the phrase

The phrase “failure is not an option” arose in popular culture following the release of the blockbuster 1995 disaster film Apollo 13.  Legendary Apollo flight director Gene Kranz (portrayed by Ed Harris) spoke the line in the movie, but not in real life.

Ironically, the “failure is not an option” view actually had profound negative consequences for the Apollo 13 mission. During the accident investigation an engineer disclosed that he had concerns about the systems that ultimately malfunctioned and caused the accident.

But he was discouraged from raising those concerns because failure to make the launch window was “not an option.”

Risks of failing to plan

A “failure is not an option” view most frequently applies to sales targets, product launch dates, new client acquisitions, and similar business goals.

But can this mindset undermine recovery planning efforts and put businesses at risk?

In company cultures where limited time and resources are focused on achieving business goals, recovery planning often is not prioritized.  Or the recovery plan is only revived to enable the organization to pass a governance audit, after which it is put back on the shelf until the next audit.

Shouldn’t the inability of the business to continue be the failure possibility that you want to avoid most? When you cut corners around recovery planning, you make the failure of your business to continue a very real option.

Even if you eventually recover but fail to reach an acceptable recovery point within an acceptable recovery time, you may well lose clients, delay projects, and suffer significant reputational as well as financial damage that can curtail your success for months or years to come.

What’s next?

If you truly want to eliminate failure as an option, your business needs a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. You also need to test your plan so your employees are familiar with it and confident about putting it into action.

If not, then the failure of your organization to recover from a disaster is a very real risk. That makes asserting around any goal or project that “failure is not an option” just tough talk.

If you’re concerned about your current recovery capability or have questions around recovery planning, contact Pivot Point Security.