The ramblings of a travelling consultant, episode 6 (part 1)

Long time no blog! I’ve been a bit of a busy boy recently, with one thing and another and, as a result, I’m afraid I haven’t had much time to indulge my blogging habit. I’ve half-written a few but haven’t got around to finishing and posting them, and I thought it was about time I remedied that. So here’s one I prepared earlier, as they say.

A few weeks ago, a colleague and I spent a week in Oman presenting a series of crisis management training courses. It all went spiffingly well and we even had a free day afterwards to do a bit of sightseeing before we flew home, which made a nice change (more about that in part 2).

The seasoned international business travellers amongst you will know that the perceived glamour (perceived by those who don’t do it themselves, obviously) is seldom evident, unless of course, you count the glamour of an airport, an office, a hotel room and, if you’re really lucky, a half-decent restaurant, bracketed by several hours on a ‘plane – usually within cringing distance of someone loud, obnoxious, drunk, snoring like a drain, laughing infuriatingly loudly at their in-flight movie, coughing, sneezing or screaming their head off – or, as is all-too-commonly the case, a veritable smorgasbord of such irritations. So the opportunity for some “r and r” was a rare but welcome bonus.

Although it was a cracking week in many ways, there were one or two things that didn’t go quite so swimmingly. The first of these came shortly after our arrival, when we checked out the training room at the hotel where the course was held, only to find it was about a third the size of the one we’d asked for. That was soon remedied, however, allowing me to move on to the next glitch, which presented itself in the form of a noisy fan in my bathroom. That’s an extractor fan, I hasten to add, as opposed to some kind of overly-zealous business continuity enthusiast. Yes, another one (see “The ramblings of a travelling consultant episode 4“). I hadn’t noticed it on the first night as, having been on the road from 5am to 11pm I was so tired that I pretty much passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

On the second night, however – the night before the first training course – I couldn’t get to sleep because of the noise from said fan. No matter, I thought, I have my trusty ear plugs with me. I’ll just pop those in and everything will be fine. Not so – the ear plugs I had were a different type to the ones I usually use. These were a sort of squidgy gel that had to be liberally kneaded and then shoved, putty-like, into each ear. That may sound ok, but I had to push them in quite a way before they actually cut out any noise – so far, in fact, that I think they met in the middle. They were really uncomfortable. And, to cap it all, I spent most of the night worrying that I wouldn’t hear my alarm clock, so I didn’t sleep anyway.

In the morning I removed my ear plugs only to find that I’d gone deaf. Now, I’m no stranger to deafness. Not my own, I hasten to add, but that of certain individuals around me. This, however, wasn’t the selective deafness of a spaniel or a particular pair of teenagers. No, I couldn’t hear a thing. The first day of a new assignment with a new client in a foreign country and during the introductions I couldn’t hear a dickie bird. I couldn’t even properly hear what I was saying, let alone what people were saying to me, so goodness only knows what my attempts to say hello in Arabic sounded like. Thankfully my hearing gradually came back during the morning, after which I was able to get through the rest of the day without saying “pardon” every two minutes or the risk of nodding or smiling in the wrong places (like Mrs Oz did once, much to my amusement and the consternation of the lady who was talking to her – I’ll tell you about that sometime).

During the lunch break I popped to reception and asked if someone could sort out the offending fan. The maintenance man duly turned up, tinkered in the ceiling void for a while, left, returned about half an hour later, tinkered some more and left again, leaving the fan making the same irritating whine. So I returned to reception and asked if I could move to another room.

Not bad, eh?

The new room was lovely, with a balcony overlooking the beach. And a bowl of fruit. Unfortunately it also had a door that didn’t lock and air conditioning that sounded like an asthmatic Tardis. To cut a long story short, I eventually got the lock fixed and ended up turning off the air conditioning before I went to bed each night, which meant I woke up in the mornings feeling like I’d slept in a sauna. But it was, at least a solution – of sorts.

So why does any of this have any relevance to business continuity management?

Well, firstly, this blogging lark. My intention to post regularly (which, apparently, is what proper bloggers do) is, I can assure you, beyond question. But sometimes other more important or more pressing stuff just gets in the way. Like the small matter of earning a living, for example. In the same way that other more important or more pressing or seemingly more interesting stuff prevents us from reviewing, updating, testing, or even starting our business continuity management programmes, even though we know we should.

Secondly, things don’t always go to plan, no matter how meticulous we think our planning efforts have been. I thought I’d planned this particular assignment (as I like to think I do with all of them) with near-military precision. But despite all the planning, things still went a bit pear-shaped at times, and I just had to deal with the challenges that presented themselves.

A certain Mr Murphy apparently said “whatever can go wrong will go wrong”, and that’s certainly been my experience over the years. And, allegedly, there’s an annex to Murphy’s law that says if something can’t possibly go wrong it will anyway and, I have to say, I’ve seen plenty of examples of that too.

In part 2 I’ll tell you about the dolphins, my shopping expedition, the “ladies” in the sports bar and my colleague’s guilty secret, so watch this space.

To be continued…

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

Leave a reply (below) 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, ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ and ‘Ski Boots and Celery – A Compilation of Oz’s Business Continuity Blogs, 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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