Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

A cracking story (part 1)

A few weeks ago the powers that be decided it would be a good idea to re-surface the main road that runs from the village where I live to just about anywhere I want to go. This was a good thing, because several years of neglect and frequent patching up – a process that started almost immediately after the last major resurfacing programme finished (when pretty much anyone with a digger and a few cones was allowed to dig holes in it then apparently get a five-year old to fill it in and “level” it) – had resulted in a somewhat uneven surface.

Rather than scraping off the uneven top layer and re-surfacing it properly, however, the approach taken by said powers that be basically involved gluing a few stone chippings to the existing surface.

The process can be summarised as follows :

1) Implement a ridiculous convoy system to ensure minimum vehicle throughput and maximum disruption to road users and local residents;

2) Spray some liquid tar onto the road’s surface;

3) Tip a few tons of gravel onto the wet tar;

4) Leave for several weeks to allow plenty of time for several dozen windscreens (that’s windshields for my readers outside the UK who don’t name your car (or automobile) parts properly!) to be damaged. Incidentally, this isn’t just me being bitter and twisted, the windscreen repair man told me how good it had been for their business;

5) Close the road again a few weeks later (see also item 1) to paint some white lines on the tiny proportion of gravel that’s still stuck to the road;

6) Disappear, leaving the unevenness to reappear after just a few weeks.

Clearly this is our Local Authority’s concept of “value for money” that they’re always banging on about. I prefer to call it doing things on the cheap and getting what you paid for.

Anyway, during phase 4 of the process I became a contributor to the windscreen company’s increased revenue stream. Driving home one evening, a car coming in the opposite direction threw up a stone which hit my windscreen, resulting in a chip in the glass and a loud curse and heralding the start of the latest erosion of my sanity.

I ‘phoned the windscreen company and they came out to see if they could repair it, which would be done free of charge. During the examination, however, the small round chip inexplicably became a three-inch crack that couldn’t be repaired. A replacement windscreen was therefore required. Now, far be it from me to tell the windscreen company how to run its business but I couldn’t help thinking it would have been a reasonable idea to have put a windscreen in the van before they left the depot, just in case. They hadn’t. So I had to book another appointment, resulting in a re-arrangement of my diary, as it obviously had to be done on a date that was convenient for them, rather than the customer. Anyway, the windscreen was duly replaced, causing significant disruption to me but, on the plus side, at least they didn’t have to put themselves out, and I handed over £75 – the excess on my windscreen insurance policy.

Two weeks later, however, on a different road to the first, albeit one “maintained” by the same local authority, the car in front threw up a stone, which hit my lovely new windscreen and chipped it. The very next day, before I could book a repair, it happened again. This time the impact was right on the edge of the screen, resulting in a crack which, over the next few days, crept steadily towards the other side. This was definitely a replacement job and it ended up costing me another seventy-five quid.

It also cost me a huge rise in blood pressure due to the subsequent dealings with the windscreen company, but I’ll spare you the details until part 2, as I suspect you’re probably thinking I’ve ranted on long enough and it’s about time I got to the business continuity part. I have to agree.

Firstly – I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again (and I’m sure this won’t be the last time) – basing your business continuity strategies and plans on the likelihood (or probability, if you’re of a more statistical or pseudo-scientific nature, or you’re an insurance actuary) of a risk occurring is, in my humble opinion, fundamentally flawed. The fact that you’ve experienced a particular event in the past, no matter how unlikely it was, doesn’t mean its not going to happen again (see “What’s the damage” and “It’s just not cricket“). And just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean that it either won’t happen or that it’s imminent.

Secondly, a proper job usually requires some investment, in time and/or money, and when you cut corners or do things on the cheap you usually get what you pay for. Effective business continuity management is no different. You can do a superficial job quite easily, but if you’re unwilling or unable to make the necessary investment in the strategy and solutions that underpin your plan, and the training, awareness, exercising and testing that develops your capability, you may well end up with something that looks OK on the surface but will fall to bits as soon as it’s put under any pressure.

I did consider telling you about the lump of something solid and fast-moving that bounced off my bonnet (that’s the hood for those of you outside the UK who don’t name your car parts properly!) and hit the top of my windscreen on the motorway (that’s the freeway, etc, etc!) just a few days after my second windscreen replacement but, apart from causing a brief recurrence of my Tourette’s problem, it didn’t cause any obvious lasting damage, so I won’t.

See you in part 2…



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

Leave a reply (below) and let me know what you think.


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




4 responses to “A cracking story (part 1)”

  1. Paul says:

    Taking my cynic cap off, I would guess that the chap (assuming it was a male) who turned up to *attempt* a repair on your windscreen did not intend to break it. Arriving with a windscreen could be seen as efficient, and forward-thinking; conversely (and firmly positioning my cynic cap back over my cranium) it might also suggest something slightly more sinister.

    Before the *attempt* to repair was made, you would have been given a heads up about how a chip can turn into a crack whilst being repaired. You might even have been invited to sign a piece of paper – or digital device – to confirm that you understand the risk. Fast forward and, CRACK! The very thing you were warned about suddenly happens, and in doing so suggests that this windscreen repair business is quite difficult, or *attempting* to repair a chipped windscreen is all about chance and probability. It’s not. The process is not a representation of how windscreen repair works, and is not indicative of how risky each *attempt* is. It is, in my opinion, a matter of plausible deniability.

    Did he plan to break the windscreen? Probably not. if he did, he would have been equipped with the correct replacement in his van, right? Well, if he knew which configuration of windscreen it was, it would have been there like a shining light. Most cars will have at least two variants of windscreen; the newer the car, the different options are increased. The failed *attempt* to repair the windscreen was not intentional. It was an honest *attempt*, and the technician did what his employer requires him to. But what if he wasn’t trained adequately? What if he did not experienced enough to successfully complete the *attempted* repair? What are the statistics of failed *attempts* against successful ones?

    Before we go any further, what equipment was he using? Was it a mechanically driven apparatus?

    • Andy says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment, which raises some interesting points.

      Out of interest, are you a regular reader of my blogs or a new visitor? I’m guessing the latter from your e-mail address and blog site, and the focus of your comments being on the windscreen repair rather than the ineptitude of my local authority or the business continuity-related observations.

      Far be it from me to suggest that the windscreen repairman deliberately made my windscreen unrepairable – that would be a terrible slur. I’m sure it was pure coincidence that, although no crack had appeared during the preceding few days driving around with a chipped windscreen, one appeared within minutes of its imminent repair. I guess I’m just unlucky. In any case, I don’t know enough about how a chip becomes a crack. Pretty much the only thing I do know on that score is that if you press it in the right place you can get a crack to extend pretty much as far as you want to. I know this because a colleague in a previous life did precisely that to another colleague, which was obviously highly amusing for everyone but the colleague whose windscreen it was. Anyway, that’s just a small aside, because I’m absolutely certain that someone from a company that provides replacement windscreens wouldn’t do something like that, when they could simply repair it far more quickly and cheaply. No, that would be unprofessional and underhand and not something one would expect of a reputable supplier.

      I was interested in your comment that the risk should have been explained to me beforehand and that I might have been asked to sign something specifically accepting that risk. I’m the first to admit that my memory isn’t what it was but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t and I wasn’t. Next time I’ll be sure to ask them to explain the risks to me. I’ll also stick around and watch quite closely next time – just so I can find out a bit more about how those inherent risks are managed, you understand. And, incidentally, not wishing to give too much of part 2 away, sadly there is going to be a next time quite soon!

      I’m no expert on repairing chips in windscreens either, it just looks to me like a quick squirt of some kind of resin from a syringe but I’m sure it’s far more technical and complicated than that. And, seemingly, quite risky in terms of a chip becoming a crack before the process can be completed. To answer your last question, there was no mechanically driven apparatus in evidence when I was called back and survey the shiny new crack and sign off the £75 excess. I assume you mean some kind of mechanical hoist to enable the operative to hover above the windscreen thus negating the need to put any pressure on it? Would that there had been. Ho hum, such is life.

      To pick up on the point about bringing a replacement screen just in case. I fully appreciate that there are different types and configurations of screens. However, let’s just review the process for a moment. It went like this :

      1) Customer goes onto windscreen company’s website and enters vehicle registration. Website confirms make and model of vehicle. (Big clue #1);

      2) Customer clicks on lots of buttons to show the location, size and type of damage. (Big clue #2);

      3) Customer enters lots of other information and submits request for repair/replacement;

      4) Windscreen company ‘phones customer and asks lots of questions about vehicle (Big opportunity to confirm details of windscreen that might be needed. Opportunity comprehensively missed);

      5) Repairman (or, in my case, replacement-man) arrives, without any potentially suitable windscreens, despite having a very large van that can clearly fit lots of windscreens in it;

      6) Repairman does his thing and, unfortunately, the cracking risk materialises. Need for replacement confirmed;

      7) Repairman asks lots of questions about vehicle to establish correct windscreen needed;

      8) Repairman spends 45 minutes trying to get hold of colleagues to order correct windscreen (on speaker phone, in my office – still, I didn’t have anything more important to concentrate on that day!);

      9) Repairman eventually contacts colleagues and orders windscreen;

      10) Repairman asks customer to call windscreen company to book another appointment. None available in the near future so customer drives around for several days with crack getting steadily bigger;

      11) Appointment date eventually arrives. Repairman comes back and fits windscreen.

      Result : Two visits by windscreen company; one inconvenienced and extremely unhappy customer.

      Again, I’m no expert but there are several clues right from the start as to a) the potential requirement for a replacement windscreen and b) the type of windscreen that might just possibly be needed. There’s also a massive opportunity for the windscreen company to find out precisely what windscreen might be needed and put one in the van (or perhaps even a couple of options), just in case.

      I’d like to see the process simplified as follows :

      1) Customer goes onto windscreen company’s website and enters requested information;

      2) Windscreen company checks with customer to ascertain type of windscreen possibly (probably?) needed;

      3) Windscreen company puts said windscreen in van before repairman leaves depot;

      4) In event of replacement being needed, repairman does replacement;

      Result : One visit by windscreen company; one satisfied customer.

      Paul, much of this is obviously said tongue-in-cheek so please take it in the spirit in which it’s written, as the last thing I want to do is cause any offence. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’m a grumpy so-and-so and there are some things that cause my rant gland to go into overdrive. This was one of those occasions. There will be many more.

      I’d be delighted to receive any further comments and, if you’re a new reader, even more delighted if you stick around and read a few more of my ramblings. I can’t promise that you’ll like part two of this blog though! 🙂

      Best wishes,

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the chuckle and sharing the wisdom of what happens with a “tick the box” approach. Just enough is never good enough for business continuity, especially “when the rubber hits the road” or a significant business disruption occurs. Cheers, Chris from downunder

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