Are Off-the-Shelf Tabletop Exercises Falling Short? Uncover the Power of Customisation for Maximum Impact!

Learn how customising tabletop exercises can lead to more impactful outcomes by aligning with specific client goals. Enhance your strategy consulting skills today!

For tabletop exercises, one size does not fit all. Just like you wouldn't grab any old suit off the rack and expect it to fit like a glove (or impress at that big board meeting), an effective tabletop drill needs to be carefully tailored to align with your organisation's specific goals, needs and culture.

At the LGP, we've guided countless clients through the process of customising tabletop exercises. And let us tell you – the extra effort put into really dialling in the details pays major dividends for the overall impact and outcomes. Tailored exercises simply lead to more engaged participants, more relevant insights, and ultimately, better resilience and preparedness. Generic, off-the-shelf drills just can't hold a candle to that bespoke goodness.

So, how does one go about customising a tabletop exercise? Allow us to break it down for you, drawing from our deep well of hard-won wisdom (and perhaps a wee bit of witty repartee):

Step 1: Get crystal clear on objectives
Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), we always start by really drilling down into what exactly the client wants to achieve with the exercise. Is the focus on testing crisis comms? Ironing out kinks in the incident response plan? Gauging cyber breach preparedness? Unearthing gaps in business continuity?

Whatever the case may be, nailing the core objectives is critical. They serve as the north star guiding the entire design process. Skip this step at your own peril. A wishy-washy sense of purpose inevitably leads to an unfocused, scattershot drill. And nobody's got time for that.

Step 2: Understand the audience
With objectives secured, we move on to really getting to know the exercise participants. What are their roles and responsibilities? Seniority levels? Professional backgrounds? Subject matter expertise? General familiarity with the exercise topic?

These audience insights help ensure the scenario, injects, and discussion questions "meet them where they're at" – not too simplistic for seasoned vets, but not too lofty for wide-eyed novices. Bonus points for weaving in hyper-relevant details that click with participants, making it feel like a scenario that could actually happen to them vs. some far-fetched hypothetical.

Step 3: Craft the core scenario
This is where the real fun begins! With a firm grasp on objectives and audience, we roll up our sleeves and let the creative juices flow as we devise the base scenario. Will it be a gnarly cyber attack? A full-blown comms crisis? A dreaded "insider threat"?

Whatever the core theme, we always aim to craft a rich, authentic narrative full of juicy (yet plausible) details. The goal is to draw participants into the story, making them feel like they're grappling with a true-to-life situation vs. a cartoonish caricature. We often weave in real-world anecdotes the LGP team has encountered to give it that extra air of realism.

Step 4: Develop the injects and discussion questions
With the core scenario serving as a solid foundation, we start layering in additional "injects" to dial up the difficulty and explore specific facets related to the objectives. For example, we might have the attacker's ransom demands escalate, or have press sniffing around for a scoop. We look for natural ways to prod participants out of their comfort zones.

Tied to the evolving scenario, we craft clusters of targeted discussion questions to spark reflection around key issues. Sticking with the cyber theme, this could include policy queries around paying ransoms, communications quandaries around disclosure timing and messaging, and technical dilemmas around system restoration. The questions ultimately matter as much as the scenario – they're the vehicle for surfacing those "aha!" insights.

Step 5: Plan the logistics
With the content in good shape, we shift gears to sorting out logistics. What's the right length and cadence given the scenario sophistication and participants' schedules? In-person or remote? Slide deck or on tabletops with maps and markers? Will the groups stay together or break into teams? Assign roles or keep it loose?

While not as sexy as devising devious plot twists, nailing the logistics key to maximizing engagement. A room packed with antsy execs and a complex scenario is a recipe for disaster if you haven't built in ample time for discussion (ask us how we know…). The little details add up to a lot.

Step 6: Pressure test and polish
Before unleashing our masterpiece on unsuspecting participants, we always take time to pressure test the exercise with a few keen-eyed colleagues or client contacts. Does the scenario hold together? Are there any unintended oversights or flaws that could throw things off track? Pressure testing always sparks valuable last-minute tweaks.

We also use this step to polish the materials. While substance trumps style, a slick facilitator guide and classy handouts certainly don't hurt when it comes to making a positive impression. Call us superficial, but thoughtful design conveys a sense of professionalism and builds credibility before the exercise even starts.

Step 7: Showtime!
The day of the exercise is when all that behind-the-scenes customisation work really shines. As we guide participants through the discussion, the bespoke elements just click. The hyper-relevant details suck them into the world. The tailored injects surface insights specific to their environment. The probing questions spark "I never thought of that!" exclamations. The approachable language and well-timed breaks keep energy high.

It's all so seamless that most participants never fully register the level of obsessive orchestration that's gone on behind the curtain. But for us LGP types familiar with the typical tabletop exercise pitfalls, seeing those "just right" reactions is like a secret thrill. It's a reminder of why we geek out so hard on the nuances of customisation. And of course we're not above a subtle but well-deserved end-of-day humblebrag about all the work that went into making it sing!

So there you have it – a whirlwind tour of the LGP's patented (not really) tabletop exercise customisation process. Hopefully, we've made the case for why investing the extra cycles to tailor materials is so worthwhile. Because when it comes to prepping your org for the worst, "generic" is not what you want as a descriptor for your drills!

Want to tap our insider knowledge to create bespoke tabletop goodness for your own org? You know where to find us. The LGP team is always down to unleash a little tabletop magic. We'll bring the markers, you bring the coffee and cronuts (hint hint).


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