At the weekend I bought a new toy and I’ve spent the last couple of days playing with it.
The ‘toy’ in question is a chainsaw. Unlike other midlife crisis sufferers, I have no desire to buy a motorbike or a sports car or a speedboat, or to go bungee jumping or white-water rafting. In fact one of my favourite pastimes is gardening and, as it’s fair to say that the opportunities for an adrenaline rush are a tad limited here, a chainsaw was the obvious answer.
I’ll qualify that, though, by saying that, in addition to most normal people’s idea of a garden I do have a small area of woodland that needs managing, as obviously a chainsaw could, quite reasonably, be considered a tad excessive for dealing with a lawn and the odd herbaceous border.
And when I say ‘playing’, I feel I should point out that I’m not quite as irresponsible as that turn of phrase might lead you to believe. Far from it, actually. In fact, a few weeks ago I went on a course to learn how to use my new ‘toy’. Because I realised that, without proper training, I might well lop off something I didn’t intend to – like a leg or a head, for instance.
So I spent two days learning how to safely use and maintain what is, when all’s said and done, a potentially lethal piece of equipment (after all, I’m dangerous enough with a cricket bat! – see ‘A toe-curling tale‘). It sort of makes you sit up and take notice when your teacher uses terms like amputation and decapitation to describe the sorts of injury that can occur if you’re not careful; and when the risk assessment includes consideration of where the air ambulance might land. So I listened attentively. And during the practical sessions, I took care to follow the advice and guidance of the experienced professional, rather than following the instincts of a rank amateur.
After the course I went out and bought all the appropriate equipment – which includes a helmet, with ear defenders and a safety visor, and special Kevlar-lined chainsaw gloves, trousers and boots. If you’ve never worn chainsaw trousers (and, in fairness, why would you?) let me tell you, they’re the heaviest trousers known to man. As are the boots. And the chainsaw itself is hardly lightweight. If nothing else, assuming I do manage not to slice anything important off, by the time I’ve finished I’ll be as fit as a butcher’s dog.
The amazing, and somewhat scary thing is that – at least in my neck of the woods (pun intended) – you can buy a chainsaw at the local DIY store and start using it straight away without any training or instruction. Is it any wonder, then, that from time to time you hear blood-curdling stories about things going horribly wrong for some poor unfortunate soul.
Aside from the risks associated with incorrect operation, the training course was also very enlightening with regard to maintenance. In order to maintain its capability, a chainsaw needs to be regularly checked and the chain needs to be sharpened before each use – a fact that most untrained chainsaw operators will be blissfully unaware of and will therefore be working with something that isn’t as effective as it should be.
So, getting to the business continuity bit (did someone say “at last”?). My chainsaw experience got me thinking about the parallels with business continuity and crisis management…
How many of us leap into a new undertaking – like, for instance, our business continuity programme or crisis management plan – without some decent training on how to do it properly?
How many of us don’t see the need for training at all, even though we’re embarking on something that we’re not used to or not currently equipped for?
How many of us think it’s just obvious, and we’ll find out as we go along, rather than taking advice from an experienced professional?
How many of us ‘sharpen the saw’ as often as we should in order to maintain our capability?
And how many of us have seen or heard examples of an organisation getting it horribly wrong, perhaps even (metaphorically) chopping their own legs off by their misguided or clumsy actions? (no names but at least one recent example springs to mind here).
In two days I’ve achieved more in my little woodland management project than I could have in several weeks in my pre-chainsaw days, safe in the knowledge that I understand how things should be done. But this is only because I bothered to learn how to do it properly and how to limit the risks.
If only some organisations thought the same way about their business continuity or crisis management planning.
PS if you can think of any other parallels that I’ve missed let me know by posting a comment.
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Andy Osborne (known as Oz to friends and colleagues) is the Consultancy Director at Acumen, a consultancy practice specialising in business continuity and risk management.
Andy is the author of two books ‘Practical Business Continuity Management‘ and ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ as well as his popular blogs and ‘Tips of the Month’, all of which aim to demystify the subjects of business continuity and risk management and make them more accessible to people who live in the real world.
You can follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyatAcumen and link with him on LinkedIn at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/andyosborneatacumen