Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

Is it just me? (part 2)

Is it just me? Is it really?

In a scene somewhat reminiscent of the supermarket painkillers fiasco (see “Is it just me (part 1)“) I recently attempted something equally ridiculous – I called my dentist to book an appointment. Yes, it was naïve of me, I admit, but I know better now.

Some time ago I chipped one of my front teeth, resulting in a small repair job. All was well until I clumsily managed to un-repair the repair job, so I wanted to get it re-repaired – partly through vanity but also because I was worried that said tooth would be weakened by having a chunk, albeit a small one, missing from it. OK, I admit it, it was almost entirely down to vanity.

I phoned my local dental surgery, only to be told by the nice receptionist that the dentist was fully booked for at least three weeks. So I was a tad surprised to then be offered an emergency appointment. I explained that it wasn’t really an emergency but she said that was ok and I could have an emergency appointment anyway, either tomorrow or the next day. So far, so good.

“I’ll take one then please”, I said, “and tomorrow would be perfect for me”.

“You need to call back tomorrow at 9am then”, said the nice receptionist.

“Can’t I just book it now?”, I asked.

“Well, if we allowed people to book them in advance they wouldn’t be emergency appointments would they?”, she said, with just a hint of sarcasm in her voice. Just enough of a hint to make me review my “nice receptionist” assessment and to make my stroppiness gland sit up and take notice.

Whilst it was difficult to fault her logic, I felt I couldn’t just leave it there. “But if you’ve just offered me an emergency appointment for a non-emergency then that suggests to me that they’re not really emergency appointments anyway”, I suggested. “And if you’re happy to let me book one and you know I’m going to call you back in less than four working hours then why not save us both the hassle of another call and just book it now? And I’ll tell you what, if a real emergency does then come along you can just cancel my appointment”, I offered, quite reasonably I thought.

But alas, it seems they have a system. And, when there’s a system, reasonableness, along with common sense, so often seems to go out of the window. The fact that the system made no sense didn’t matter, she couldn’t possibly deviate from it. The result, a lengthy and pointless conversation, an additional ‘phone call the next day, more wasted time for both of us and an irritated customer. And presumably I’m not the only one if the system is applied consistently, as I suspect it probably is.

So I followed the system, made my additional ‘phone call and saw the dentist the next day. He did a quick repair job (quick but seventy quid’s worth, all the same) and told me that the tooth hadn’t actually been weakened so perhaps it wasn’t really the emergency that I’d thought it was. I felt that some kind of riposte was in order but, as my mouth was full of various tubes and the dentist’s fingers, and as he was holding a particularly evil-looking pointy metal implement in his other hand, I settled on “ffnnurgh”.

Systems are all very well, provided that they’re fit for purpose and that they enable, rather than constrain, our ability to do things effectively. If this is the case then a system can be a very good thing. But, as in the above story, how often do we come across systems and processes that detract from, rather than facilitating, the main objective? And how often do we bash our heads against blind adherence to such a system or process by someone who spectacularly misses the point.

And that can be a major issue for those of us who aspire to certification to standards, such as ISO22301 or whatever your own particular standard of choice is. Because sometimes we can focus too much on the standard and its requirements, with certification becoming the main objective, rather than using it as vehicle to develop a robust, fit for purpose business continuity capability.

I suspect that some people reading this won’t agree with me but trust me, I can cite several examples of organisations I know of that attained certification to a standard but that, at least in my humble opinion, are some way away from that capability. I guess there are reasons why some might want the certificate, regardless of the capability, but surely it’s better to have both. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, after all, although it is eminently possible to have one without the other.

A chap I used to work with a long time ago had a saying which I think sums it up quite nicely : “As you travel through life, whatever your goal, keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole”. Not overly profound, I’ll grant you, but something to think about nonetheless.


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

Leave a reply 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




2 responses to “Is it just me? (part 2)”

  1. Harriet says:

    Try booking an appointment with our GP!

    • Andy says:

      Ah, the GP receptionist – they have systems that take it to a whole new level. Ours make you ‘phone at 8am on the day you want the appointment. And guess what? You can’t get through because everyone’s calling at the same time, then after about 25 minutes when you do finally get through all the appointments have gone. Genius!

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