A colleague and I recently facilitated a business continuity workshop for a client in Cambridge. It was scheduled to start at 9.30am so we arranged to meet at the client’s offices at 8.45 to set up.
Because the journey can be a bit unpredictable, and the fact that I was in London the day before, I decided to take a train to Cambridge and stay in a hotel – a sensible bit of risk management I thought.
All the local hotels were fully booked, including the one that my colleague had suggested, so I ended up in a particularly grotty Travelodge about 20 miles away, far from civilization, which meant an evening meal in the Little Chef next door (oh, the glamour of business travel!). I booked a taxi for 8 o’clock the following morning and retired to my luxury penthouse suite to get an early night, so as to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the next morning’s event.
At 7.15 the next morning I was sitting in my room checking my e-mails whilst eating the nearest thing to a room service breakfast in a Travelodge – the infamous “breakfast bag” (which, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, comprises a plastic dish of cornflakes with UHT milk, eaten with a plastic spoon, plus a plastic bottle of orange juice and a not very fresh (plastic?) croissant), when my colleague ‘phoned me, to say he’d arrived. As we had plenty of time he said he’d go for a cup of tea and meet me in a few minutes. I finished my breakfast bag, cancelled my taxi, packed up my stuff and checked out.
I couldn’t see my colleague anywhere, so I rang him to ask where he was hiding. “I’m in reception”, he said. Well, I’d just walked through reception (which was only about 6 feet square) and he definitely wasn’t there. Then the penny dropped – we were in different hotels!
To cut a relatively long (and stressful) story short, I eventually managed to re-book my taxi for 8.30 and arrived at the client’s offices in the nick of time (albeit a tad hot under the collar).
So to the point of this story. It highlighted several things for me :
- My best laid plans were scuppered due to an invalid assumption – in this case that I was in the hotel that my colleague had suggested. We all make assumptions, but sometimes those assumptions don’t hold water so we really ought to validate them;
- Inadequate communication made the problem worse. One of the biggest issues in business continuity management and, in particular in crisis or incident management, is effective communication;
- When things went horribly wrong at least we had a contingency plan – my colleague had a copy of the presentation and the relevant documents with him, just in case;
- You should never, ever, cancel your taxi ‘til you’re absolutely certain that you don’t need it!