The ramblings of a travelling consultant – episode 4 (part 1)

Yesterday was one of those days. In fact it was about four of those days rolled into one!

It started at precisely 4.09am when I was rudely awakened by a loud but unintelligible shout from Mrs Oz who, as it turned out, was having a bad dream, and we weren’t being attacked in our bed after all. I somehow survived the ordeal without the need for defibrillation, then spent the next hour and fifty-one minutes desperately trying to get back to sleep. I failed. So you can imagine how chuffed I was when the alarm went off at 6 o’clock. At least it was the gentle chiming of the carefully chosen alarm tone on my ‘phone, rather than the 110 decibel claxon horn that Mrs Oz had accidentally selected when setting her alarm the night before. That one isn’t there anymore. And, miraculously, her phone is still in one piece.

So I grudgingly got up, shaved, showered, dressed, had breakfast, packed an overnight bag and left for a couple of days away, as yet blissfully unaware of what that might entail.

The first thing that entailed was the realisation that I hadn’t locked the car the night before. It’s ok, the car was still there, so I’d got away with that little lapse in security. However, not only hadn’t I locked the car, but the passenger door was wide open. The previous evening I’d been out with one of my sons and we’d arrived home at the same time as Mrs Oz and my other son, so obviously we had to race to see who got to the front door first – as you do. I’m delighted to report that my team won, but in our haste someone, who shall remain nameless, left my passenger door open. But still, we’d had a laugh and the car hadn’t been stolen, so that was ok. Except that it wasn’t. Because it had rained overnight. Heavily. And horizontally. So much so that the passenger footwell resembled a small lake, the passenger seat was absolutely sodden and half of the driver’s seat was soaking wet too. Resulting in an eighty mile car journey sitting on a slowly dampening towel.

My journey was, not to put too fine a point on it, pants! It was a grotty morning – dark, cold and still pouring with rain, and I managed to get behind every slow-moving vehicle in Worcestershire. And Oxfordshire. And Buckinghamshire. And I managed to hit one of those Monday morning, everyone-imaginable-in-their-cars-because-it’s-a-bit-rainy traffic jams. Three, in fact. To cap it all, the intermittent, relatively minor scraping noise from my offside front wheel (incidentally I’ve just had an argument with my ‘phone about whether I intended to type wheel or whelk!), which the garage told me at the weekend was “absolutely nothing to worry about sir and it can wait until your next service”, turned into a full-on, constant graunch at almost exactly the mid-point of my journey, about three seconds after I got on the motorway.

Anyway, having (at least in theory) allowed more than enough time for my trip, I arrived at my client’s site with exactly thirty-eight seconds to spare, completely frazzled. So, with a perfect sense of irony, my first appointment was twenty-five minutes late. Which at least gave me time to stabilise my caffeine levels and put on my professional face. And to surreptitiously dry the seat of my trousers under the warm air hand dryer in the little boys’ room. What anyone would have thought if they’d come in whilst I was doing it I shudder to think.

To be fair, the day went pretty well after that – provided, of course, you don’t count the mayonnaise on the tie at lunchtime. After a slightly less eventful afternoon, I left my client’s office and headed for the hotel, thinking I’d had more than my fair share of grief for one day. It’s amazing how wrong you can be. But I’ll tell you about that in part 2.

In the meantime, I’ll share with you a thought that I had on my drive to the hotel – not the one I had immediately after the idiot in the Porsche cut me up, you’ll no doubt be relieved to hear, but one associated with the morning’s fun and games.  

Despite my careful planning, things still went decidedly pear-shaped, mostly due to the actions of other people. When you think about it, there’s a lot of stuff that goes pear-shaped because of what people do; or don’t do. As I say in my book ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ (I just thought I’d sneak in a quick advert there!) when we introduce people into the equation things have a nasty habit of going wrong. Because, people being people, they do unexpected, dangerous or even stupid things. Which is something we need to be aware of, because simply implementing a process to mitigate a risk isn’t the end of it – we need to inform and train and enforce and check and monitor to ensure the process is being followed, and continues to be followed, correctly. We should also give some consideration to the impact of those processes on people and their day jobs. Because if there’s an easier way to do things, a lot of people will take the path of least resistance and cut corners, however much you’d like them to follow your process to the letter. Sadly, history is littered with case studies of things going seriously wrong because people didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

I arrived at my hotel without further incident – and remarkably little swearing, considering – looking forward to a relaxing evening. But this blog’s long enough already. So watch this space!…

 

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Agree? Disagree? Want to share your own thoughts or opinions?

Leave a reply and let me know what you think.

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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 the booksPractical 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

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