Are Your Tabletop Exercises Worth it? Discover Foolproof Ways to Measure their Impact on Business Success.

Discover effective ways to assess and showcase the impact of your tabletop exercises in achieving business goals and fostering learning. Upgrade your training with proven methods today.

In the world of business continuity and crisis management, few activities garner as much excitement (or eye-rolls) as the tabletop exercise. To some, they represent a critical tool for pressure-testing plans, uncovering gaps, and building "muscle memory" for crisis response. To others, they are seen as little more than a check-the-box activity or, worse, a monumental waste of everyone's precious time.

Having designed and facilitated many tabletop exercises for organisations large and small, we at LGP have heard the full spectrum of opinions on their usefulness. While we firmly believe in their value when done right, we also understand the healthy scepticism some leaders have about tabletops, especially when asked to demonstrate concretely how they support overarching business objectives.

So how can you prove the effectiveness and worth of your tabletop program? What are some methods for clearly showing they are more than just an amusing way to pass an afternoon but, drive real learning and tangible improvements to the business?

Let's explore some approaches we've found to be successful:

Start with Why
Before diving into assessment methods, it's critical to first align on the core purpose and objectives of the specific tabletop exercise. What is it meant to achieve? Fill knowledge gaps? Test assumptions in the plan? Gauge leadership's decision-making ability under stress. Improve coordination between dispersed teams?

Being crystal clear on the why lays the necessary foundation for figuring out the what and how to assess effectiveness. It turns the tabletop from a standalone, one-off activity into an integrated piece of a broader improvement effort. So always start there.

Embrace Pre- and Post-Exercise Surveys
One of the simplest yet most powerful methods for gauging the impact of tabletops is the use of surveys issued to participants before and after the exercise. These can range from assessing familiarity with key plans and tools to a level of confidence in handling likely crisis scenarios. The key is having a clear baseline to compare against.

Capturing this kind of quantitative data helps show concretely the learning and improvement in perception the tabletop enabled. The pre/post approach also works well for assessing shifts in behaviour and prompting "aha" moments (e.g. "I learned that we need to update our call trees" or "I realised how essential it is for my team to participate in crisis comms planning").

Track Gaps and Assign Actions
While surveys are great for capturing participant feedback and perceptions, it's the substantive gaps, issues and open questions the tabletop unearths that ultimately drive real change and improvement to crisis preparedness and response.

That's why we're big believers in rigorously documenting these gaps as they emerge during the exercise and then assigning clear owners and due dates for addressing them as part of the after-action review. It could be outdated contact info, a critical stakeholder missing from the plan, confusion around decision-making authority, or an insight that the current backup communications tool is inadequate.

Whatever the case, treating these gaps as tangible to-dos to be tracked over time is one of the best ways to demonstrate the concrete value and output of the tabletop. Reporting on their progress and completion to leadership connects the dots and shows the through-line from the issues identified to improvements made. We love stats like that for showing the rapid, tangible impact tabletops can drive when taken seriously.

Utilise Scoring and Heat Mapping
For clients running multiple tabletops across different teams, business units, or geographies, using consistent scoring frameworks can be a highly effective way to aggregate data and draw insights on overall crisis preparedness. We often have observers use basic 1-5 scales to evaluate participant performance on key crisis management activities like information assessment, stakeholder communications, and aligned decision-making.

The power of this kind of rolled-up scoring is that it allows leaders to see crisis readiness less as a one-off snapshot and more as an evolving, measurable muscle to be strengthened over time. And it demonstrates the vital role tabletops play in gauging that strength.

Integrate with Other KPIs and Processes
Finally, perhaps the most powerful way to prove the concrete value of tabletops is to link their outputs to other core business metrics and objectives. For example, tying the successful completion of exercises to a reduction in cybersecurity insurance premiums. Or tracking how smoothly a real-world crisis was managed compared to past incidents before the relevant teams started doing regular tabletops.

The key is finding ways to integrate tabletop findings into the broader ecosystem of goals, KPIs and management processes the business cares about. Doing so takes them out of the "nice to have" category and connects them to bottom-line performance.

So while the hokey scenarios may elicit some snickers, for tabletop exercises, there is a multitude of robust approaches for proving they are anything but a laughing matter. By setting clear objectives, embracing pre- and post-event surveys, rigorously tracking gaps and actions, applying consistent scoring models, and linking to core business priorities, you can demonstrate concretely how your tabletop program supports what matters most: improving the organisation's resilience and ability to weather whatever crises may come.

The sceptics may never be fully convinced, but for the rest of us, passing the tabletop test is worthwhile.


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