The ramblings of a travelling consultant – episode 1

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 :

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. You should never, ever, cancel your taxi ‘til you’re absolutely certain that you don’t need it!

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4 Responses to The ramblings of a travelling consultant – episode 1

  1. Sue Richardson July 17, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Great post Andy – a reminder of how making assumptions of any kind can lead to potential disaster. The map is not the territory! The art of careful communication includes good questions to clarify the other person’s reality (ie hotel reception) is in line with yours.

  2. Peter Chisambara July 17, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Hi Andy. Great post. Point number 3 sums it up. Crisis management is all about being proactive and not reactive. So often we fail to plan in advance for the unthinkable and when a crisis occurs, that’s when we start looking for solutions, but then it will be too late to minimise the damage.

  3. Karen Jones July 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Hi Andy, it really does go to show that you should never assume anything, whatever your situation! Great post.

  4. James Gillson July 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Hi Andy, One of many stories ( no-doubt ) .. Ah the life of a travelling consultant..

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