As tensions continue to escalate between China and Taiwan, organizations operating in the region must prepare for the potential of a full-scale conflict.
In such a scenario, businesses face the daunting task of evacuating their employees while maintaining continuity of operations. One effective way to prepare for this eventuality is through a tabletop exercise. The blog will discuss how to create, deliver, and evaluate a tabletop exercise, using a hypothetical scenario involving China invading Taiwan.
Creating a Geopolitical Tabletop Exercise
- Define the objectives
The first step in creating a tabletop exercise is to define the objectives. These should be specific and measurable, allowing participants to understand the desired outcomes. For our scenario, the goals might include:
- Enhancing the organization’s ability to evacuate employees during a regional crisis
- Ensuring ongoing business continuity amidst a geopolitical conflict
- Identifying gaps in the organization’s crisis response plan
- You may add others for your specific organization
- Develop the scenario
To create a realistic and engaging tabletop exercise, it is essential to develop a plausible scenario. For our China-Taiwan conflict tabletop exercise, the scenario might begin with a sudden escalation of hostilities between the two countries, culminating in an invasion. This could include:
- Increased military activity and skirmishes along the Taiwan Strait
- Cyberattacks targeting Taiwanese infrastructure
- International tensions, with other countries being drawn into the conflict
- Identify key stakeholders
Consider the different parties in the organization’s response to the scenario. For our tabletop exercise, stakeholders might include:
- Senior management is responsible for making strategic decisions
- Human resources staff tasked with employee safety and evacuation
- IT and cybersecurity teams dealing with potential cyber threats
- Legal and compliance personnel addressing regulatory concerns
- Develop injects
Injects are events or pieces of information introduced during the tablet to simulate real-world challenges and provoke discussion. For our scenario, injects might include:
- Reports of escalating violence near the organization’s facilities
- Employees trapped in conflict zones and unable to reach evacuation points
- Cyberattacks compromising the organization’s communication systems
- Travel restrictions imposed by other countries, affecting evacuation plans
- Create a timeline
A timeline helps structure the tabletop exercise and ensures that it progresses logically. For our scenario, the timeline might begin with the initial signs of conflict and progress through various stages, including full-scale invasion, employee evacuation, and ongoing business continuity challenges.
Delivering a Geopolitical Tabletop Exercise
- Assemble the participants
Gather representatives from the key stakeholder groups identified earlier, ensuring that they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their respective departments.
- Set the stage
Begin by providing participants with an overview of the scenario and the objectives of the geopolitical China-Taiwan conflict tabletop exercise. This should include a brief on the current geopolitical situation, relevant risks, and the organization’s crisis response plan.
- Introduce injects
Introduce injects at appropriate points in the timeline to simulate real-world challenges. Encourage participants to discuss their potential responses, considering the impact on employee safety, business continuity, and other key objectives.
- Facilitate discussion
As the tabletop exercise progresses, facilitate discussions among participants to ensure that all perspectives are considered and that the group reaches a consensus on the best course of action. Encourage participants to challenge assumptions and consider alternative strategies.
Evaluating a Geopolitical Tabletop Exercise
Immediately after the tabletop exercise, hold a debriefing session to review the exercise and discuss lessons learned. This should include an open and honest conversation about what worked well, what did not, and any gaps or challenges that emerged during the tabletop exercise.
- Document findings
Thoroughly document the findings from the tabletop exercise, including the decisions made, challenges encountered, and lessons learned. This documentation will serve as a basis for updating the organization’s crisis response plan and identifying areas for improvement.
- Update the crisis response plan
Based on the findings from the tabletop exercise, update the organization’s crisis response plan to address any identified gaps or weaknesses. This may involve refining evacuation procedures, enhancing communication protocols, or bolstering cybersecurity measures.
- Conduct follow-up training
Conduct follow-up training for employees based on the lessons learned from the tabletop exercise to ensure that the organization is better prepared for a geopolitical crisis.
- Schedule future exercises
Regularly conduct tabletop exercises to keep the organization’s crisis response plan up-to-date and ensure employees know their roles and responsibilities during an emergency. This is particularly important in a rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape, where new threats and challenges may emerge unexpectedly.
Organizations must be prepared to navigate regional geopolitical crises that could impact their employees and business operations in an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment. By creating, delivering, and evaluating a tabletop exercise centered around a China-Taiwan conflict scenario, businesses can identify gaps in their crisis response plans, strengthen their ability to evacuate employees, and enhance their overall resilience in the face of uncertainty.
By taking a proactive approach to crisis planning and learning from these tabletop exercises, organizations can not only protect their employees and assets during protect their employees and assets during a conflict and a conflict but also position themselves to continue operating and thriving in a post-crisis landscape.
Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.