Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

The best laid plans

I spent last weekend in Wales, at the world-famous annual golfing event, the Abersoch Open. There’s a blow-by-blow account in my previous blog “@TheAbersoch” so I won’t repeat too much of it here.

A wet weekendSuffice it to say that it was just about the wettest weekend in living memory, I played like a rank amateur, my team lost heavily, I think I have trench foot and my car still smells like a stagnant pond. Apart from that it was great fun.

There was one aspect, however, that I do want to mention in a bit more detail, because, unlike my last blog, it does actually have some relevance to business continuity management.

You see, I had a plan – for the associated blog at any rate. My golfing plan consisted of playing a massive three rounds since last year’s Open, not practising at all and somehow expecting to play like a real golfer. Anyway, back to the blog plan. I decided to go about things a bit differently this year. My plan was to record events (almost) as they happened, via Twitter and to consolidate those Tweets into said blog. So I duly researched how to insert tweets into a blog post, set up a new Twitter account (@AbersochOpen) on which to record events for posterity, told my golfing buddies what I was planning and asked them to contribute with their own tweets, and wrote the blog’s introduction. The plan looked good. Then I tried to put it into action, at which point a few previously unconsidered issues surfaced…

Firstly, my plan to tweet the action (almost) as it happened failed miserably. Despite what the mobile ‘phone companies tell you about their 99% coverage across the UK, shock horror, mobile reception in the wilds of mid-Wales isn’t actually all that great. This is particularly true out on the golf course at Builth Wells (who’d have thought it, eh?) but also in the clubhouse and at our hotel, where the fabled wifi only seemed to work in a particular, and particularly small, corner of the lobby.

Secondly, when I did manage to get a mobile signal, trying to tweet between shots proved to be a huge distraction and didn’t, I suspect, do anything to improve my already shaky game. I’d also overlooked the fact that I wear contact lenses when golfing and when I have them in I have to wear reading glasses to see anything close up (see “A spectacular disaster“). And yes, you’ve guessed, I didn’t have my reading glasses in my golf bag.

Thirdly, it’s a good idea to make sure your ‘phone is fully charged before embarking on a four and a half hour venture into the unknown, wouldn’t you think? Enough said!

Fourthly, my assumption that other members of the party would assist by tweeting stuff themselves proved largely unfounded, so I ended up with my head down over my phone for much of the weekend – the exact opposite of my cunning plan.

Fifthly, the resulting blog, far from being concise as I’d intended (it is, after all, made up of tweets, which as you probably know, are a maximum of 140 characters each) ended up being quite lengthy, at least in terms of scrolling through it, if not the actual detail.

“So”, I hear you cry, “what’s all that got to do with business continuity management?”. Well, it’s like this…

  • Our business continuity and crisis management plans often rely on technology, such as the mobile network or internet access and, surprise, surprise, it’s not always available.
  • Plans can, and often do, look great on paper but you never really know whether they’ll work until you test them. The time to find out that your plan doesn’t actually work isn’t when you’re trying to do it for real.
  • Some plans put too much responsibility and pressure on one or two individuals, without considering the consequences or the impact on them.
  • Our business continuity plans often make assumptions about what people will be willing and able to do and often these assumptions prove to be invalid.
  • Some plans are far too long. Others don’t contain nearly enough information. It can be a delicate balance but one that’s important to get right if we want our plans to be usable and used.

Sometimes our plans, created, as they almost certainly were, with the best of intentions, just don’t work when they’re called upon – because they’re untested, contain incorrect assumptions or have dependencies that aren’t there when we need them.

As Mike Tyson so succinctly put it “everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth”. The trick is to minimise the chances of being hit in the first place.


Related articles : “Personal effects“; “Touchy feely“;  “When is a plan not a plan?


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



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