Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

Not what it seems

I was walking Barney recently when someone stopped to say hello. To him, not me – he’s always the first one that people talk to, I can’t think why. “I love Springers”, she said, when she eventually acknowledged my presence, “in fact I have two myself”.

“Actually, he’s a Field Spaniel” I replied, to  which she asked “are you sure? He looks like a Springer”.

I pointed out that whilst his markings are quite  Springer-like, Field Spaniels are generally a bit shorter, a bit stockier and a  bit squarer-faced than Springers (and a tad more expensive, but I kept that one  to myself as I thought she might take it the wrong way).

“Oh” she responded, “he does look like a Springer though”.

This conversation isn’t at all unusual. In fact it’s quite a regular occurrence. On a slightly different, though related note, when my kids  were quite young, a similar(ish) thing used to happen with monotonous  regularity. They looked quite alike to the casual observer and would  sometimes be mistaken for twins. That in itself was fairly understandable I suppose, but we’d occasionally have some bizarre conversations as a result.

One day my wife was in a local supermarket, with both  boys in tow. At the checkout the woman behind her asked if they were twins. “No, there’s twenty months between them”, my wife replied.

“Are you sure?” asked the woman, “they certainly look like twins”.

“No, they’re not twins” my wife replied, but the woman was having none of it and continued to dispute my wife’s assertions. Somewhat exasperated, Mrs Oz said  “Look, I was there at the birth of both of them and I’m pretty sure I remember. They definitely aren’t twins.”

At which point the woman turned to the checkout operator and said “Would you say they’re twins?”

In a similar vein, it’s very easy for the uninitiated to assume that something that looks a bit like a business continuity plan actually is one. After all, it says ‘Business Continuity Plan’ on the front cover and it seems to have the sort of information in it that you’d expect to see.

But sometimes you have to look past the superficial bits to get to the reality. Sometimes, when you dig a bit, it becomes apparent that what, on the surface, is a convincing looking business continuity plan doesn’t actually have any substance to it – perhaps because it’s based on assumptions that have never been validated (or are just plain wrong); or because despite the fact that it contains lots of names and ‘phone numbers, those named have little if any awareness of the plan or their roles and responsibilities within it; or because it’s never been tested; or because it’s full of holes. Still, it looks a bit like a business continuity plan so it must be one, mustn’t it?

There’s a saying that goes something like “if it  looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck”. Which may well be true. In fairness though, there’s really no mistaking a duck. But if it looks a bit like a Springer, walks a bit like a Springer and barks a bit like a Springer, it might just be a Field Spaniel. And just because two kids are about the same height and both have blonde hair it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re twins.

…And just because a document looks a bit like a business continuity plan it doesn’t necessarily mean it really is one.


Related articles : When is a plan not a plan?; A reasonable assumption?; A BC capability vs. a BC plan; Perfuming the pig

Other Barney-related blogs : A bit of a Barney; Paws for thought‘; A tension span; A spectacular disaster; Horses for courses



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 two 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




One response to “Not what it seems”

  1. Richard Hall says:

    This reminds me of one particular BC Plan I was asked to review. On the surface, the document I was given seemed to be extremely comprehensive and included every possible section and detail you could want in a plan. Someone had obviously read the contents requirements and taken them very literally and on a non-negotiable basis.
    It was only once I started reading this tome, that I soon discovered that the organisation in question, in fact didn’t have a BC Plan.
    The stand-out feature for me (and still makes me smile to this day) was the very detailed directions, maps and Google view of how to get to the Incident Command Centre. On closer inspection of the google satellite view of the location, the marker was in the middle of a field.

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