The comfort factor

I’d just about come to terms with the (sometimes literally) painful realisation that I’ve reached middle age, despite my various attempts to fight its insidious approach (see “Mid-life crisis management“, “Going head-to-head” and “Fit for nothing“). A few weeks ago, however, I did something that shocked and depressed me and, quite clearly, signalled the official start of the slippery slope. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, particularly to myself, but I went shoe shopping and, after trying on three or four pairs, I opted for the comfy ones.

In fairness, they’re not terrible; not completely lacking in style; not proper old bloke’s shoes. There’s no Velcro, for instance. But shortly after buying them I fell into a deep depression and began to worry that, having embarked on this particular journey, there may be no way back and it’ll only be a matter of time before sandals (maybe even with socks) start to look inviting.

But then a glimmer of hope sort of glimmered. My new shoes started making strange noises. It began with a faint squeaking,  which developed into a kind of quiet squelching that grew gradually louder and louder and was punctuated every now and again by something more, well, lavatorial, not to put too fine a point on it. They may be comfortable, but I could no longer wear them in public. I was saved.

In hindsight, maybe Mrs Oz and I were wrong about her grandfather all those years ago. Our hysterical laughter as we followed him up the stairs to a veritable symphony of strange raspberry-like noises may well have been unfounded and due to his comfy shoes after all. In which case, I’m now feeling extremely guilty. It was funny though.

But I digress, which, admittedly, is getting to be a bit of a habit. The problem is that I haven’t had chance yet to go out and buy another, quieter pair. So I’m still squelching around, trying to act all nonchalant and pretend it’s not me.

Over the past few weeks I’ve squelched my way into, and out of, client meetings, workshops and exercises, along the aisles in aeroplanes and even on my way up to the stage to collect an award – did I mention to you that I’m an award winning business continuity consultant? 🙂 (see “A picture of professionalism”). Luckily, on that particular occasion, my squelching was drowned out by the rapturous applause of my adoring public and, in any case, there were quite a few people of more mature years in the audience so I’m pretty confident that anyone hearing strange noises wouldn’t have thought it was me.

Recently, however, I was extremely grateful for my comfy shoes. During a brief visit to Paris, my client took me for dinner, followed by a whistle-stop tour of the city, on foot, which took in the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and, after what can best be described as a yomp, if a somewhat squelchy-sounding one, up the Champs Élysées to the Arc De Triomphe, followed by a twenty-minute equally squelchy-sounding walk back to my hotel.

At the end of it, whilst I knew I’d had a decent walk, my feet were in pristine condition – unlike the time, a few years ago, that I’d tried to “do” Rome in the three hours between the end of a meeting and my departure for the airport. That time I’d been wearing much smarter, more fashionable shoes and my feet were blistered and sore for days afterwards.

The moral of this story is that trendy and fashionable isn’t always best, and isn’t necessarily what you need.

In the course of my work I see a lot of business continuity plans, in all sorts of formats and on all kinds of media (see also “Short and sweet“). Some of them are very impressive. Some of them aren’t, and it’s very obvious that they aren’t. Some of them look quite impressive until you open the cover and have a good walk around in them, either by way of a “health check” or some kind of walkthrough exercise. This is the point at which the owner often realises that their lovely shiny-looking plan isn’t actually what they thought it was, either because it’s out of date or it’s based on flawed assumptions; or it has no strategy underpinning it; or it simply doesn’t fit the business because it was cribbed from someone else’s plan! There’s any number of reasons why a plan might not be fit for purpose but it’s not always obvious at first sight.

In a similar vein, the business continuity world, like many others, is jam-packed with sparkly new products and services. Some of them are very good. Some of them aren’t. Most of them look really good on the shelf and, on the basis of a two-minute walk around in the shop, seem to be what you think you need. But, as with the shoes, the problem often doesn’t manifest itself until you get them home and have a proper walk around in them, when you find out that they aren’t really what you needed after all.

Oz's comfy shoesSometimes comfortable and fit for purpose is much better than something that’s swish-looking but causes you pain when you try to use it for real. Even if comfortable and fit for purpose doesn’t look very exciting. And even if you do have to put up with the odd raspberry!

 

Related articles : “When is a plan not a plan?“; “Easy peasy“; “Less is more

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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 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

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