Advantages and Disadvantage of the Tabletop Exercise
The tabletop exercise is the most common kind of training exercise conducted by corporations and governments. It is a very useful training tool that has both advantages and disadvantages, as summarized here:
Advantages of Tabletop Exercises
- Requires only a modest commitment in terms of time, cost, and resources.
- Is an effective method for reviewing plans, procedures, and policies.
- Is a good way to familiarize key personnel with their roles and responsibilities.
- Is an opportunity to build trust (team building).
- It stimulates thought processes.
- Helps focus the team within a specific situation (scenarios such as cyber)
- Helps identify any issues, challenges and / or assumptions.
- Helps identify resources necessary to overcome any issues, challenges and / or assumptions.
- Helps identify means of overcoming any identified issues, challenges and / or assumptions.
- An opportunity leaders to practice their crisis management leadership skills.
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Related: Crisis Simulation Exercise Design & Delivery Process
Disadvantages of Tabletop Exercises
- Lacks realism and thus does not provide a true test of a crisis, emergency, security or business continuity management system’s capabilities.
- Provides only a superficial exercise of plans, procedures, and team capabilities.
- Does not provide a practical way to demonstrate system overload.
What would you ad to these lists?
Resource: The Principles of Simulation Exercises Training Course
About Rob Burton
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.
Thank you, Bob. Agree with there being more pro’s and con’s.
The table top exercise should form part of a training pathway which promotes a safe learning environment where participants can apply the theory of their policies and procedures to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Mistakes should be encouraged though rectified by the next exercise… after all – the first time anyone deals with a crisis should not be when it is happening.
If the table top exercise is poorly managed or unchallenging then the participants may get a false sense of readiness. I have seen many managers ensure their team does not fail during an exercise yet they struggle during an event.
Train for reality!
Great points, Keith.
No organization should be choosing between the different types of exercises. There is a time and place for each type in the exercise program of the organization. Tabletops can be used as a strong component in managing the maturation of the program.
There are a number of additional Pros to tabletops including variations in the format of the tabletop that change the learning focus of the activity to areas other than the risk itself. Similarly there are other cons if one takes the author’s perspective.
Rather than pros and cons, i would suggest that they are all characteristics of the tabletop that can help the organization choose between the three generally recognized exercise formats. Its all about learning and maturing the preparedness of the organization.