..Or so it seems.
How often have we heard the warning "What if your key people get hit by a bus?" to talk about business continuance?
I've heard it so often that I have to wonder if there is a fleet of killer buses on the loose, just looking for network administrators, programmers, analysts, and all other kinds of IT people to run over. Why aren't the police doing anything about this? Why hasn't Peter Mansbridge made it headline story?
I'm going to let you in on two secrets... First, the killer bus doesn't exist (aside from some B-Grade Teen horror flick), and secondly, there are better ways to motivate your team into not running as islands of experts, where each person is intrinsically necessary to the running of the operation. Remove one person, and the whole thing collapses.
This doesn't mean that your team members are not important, and their collective expertise is what gives your team its edge. But.. as history shows, the team rarely collapses when one person is removed or leaves. It may struggle for a while but it will find a new rhythm.
I'm not talking only about catastrophic events. I'm sure you have all experienced gaps in your team caused by maternity/paternity leave (this is Canada!), medical leaves, or the fact that people need to take a vacation once in a while.
Speaking of vacation... Can you (or anyone on your team) actually take a vacation? If they do, do you require them to "be available"?
So while there is not a killer bus, there are a number of things you can do to prevent disruptive events on your team.
As a leader, it is important to find a way to set up your team to handle these life events, and one of the exercises that can help is to define a service catalog for your department. What is it you provide? To whom? By whom? In what time frame?
Once you go through this exercise you'll soon discover gaps in coverage where you may have to provide experience, training, or develop documentation so people on your team can be away on vacation, or leave, or at a conference, and your key services can still be delivered. On my team, we call this "having 2 (levels) deep for every key skill".
If you haven't considered this and still rely on your team to "deliver 110%, and worry when anyone is "not available", you may be bordering on becoming an abusive boss. Marcus Buckingham, in his book First, Break all the Rules mentions that people don't quit companies, they quit their bosses.
Having a key person on your team quit is likely more disruptive and expensive than having them take a 2 week holiday.
As a closing thought... I quit talking about the killer bus to start the discussion about continuity planning. I now ask the question "What if your key player won the lottery and moved to a tropical island?" It has the same impact on the organization, but there's much less carnage.
What if YOU won the lottery? Who could fill in for you? I'll talk about legacy in another post.