Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

The long and short of it

In our family there’s a phenomenon known as the “Thomas goodbye”. Thomas is Mrs Oz’s maiden name and the Thomas goodbye pretty much applies to everyone on that side of the family, whether or not they’ve changed their surnames through marriage, as it’s a genetic, rather than a name thing. It’s what they do when any of them leave after visiting any other member(s) of said family – and it takes forever.

The Thomas goodbye is a thing to behold. It begins somewhere between ten minutes (best case) and about two and a half hours before the actual leaving time. I’ve never actually timed it, but I reckon the average is probably about forty minutes. I have, on occasion, when certain relatives are involved, suggested that we put the kettle on when the first overtures are made. They think I’m taking the wotsit, but I’m deadly serious, as I just know it’s going to be a bit of an epic. And I’m usually right.

The Thomas goodbye typically goes something like this…

Phase 1 begins in the lounge or the kitchen, wherever the relevant parties have congregated, with a comment such as “well, we really must be going”.

Phase 2 – The conversation, which almost certainly reached a natural pause just before the “must be going” dummy was delivered, now starts up again, often with a whole new topic thrown in for good measure. Conversation continues for another ten minutes or so before the magic words are repeated.

Phase 2a is an iterative stage, as phase 2 can be, and often is, repeated several times. Eventually, however, everyone stands up as if to say their goodbyes and allow the exiting party to take their leave. The uninitiated can easily be fooled into thinking that this is what’s actually about to happen, but the seasoned observer (such as me) will stay put because they’ve seen it all before and know that this is just the beginning.

Phase 3 – After somewhere between about ten and twenty minutes, the “must be going” card is played again, at which point there might be a few hugs and kisses and even a decisive-looking movement towards the door. Don’t be taken in by this – it’s another dummy.

Phase 4 is basically a repeat of phase 2, just in a slightly different location, and phase 5 is a repeat of phase 3. Regretting not having put the kettle on at the initiation of phase 1, I bide my time and wait for the end game, which is undoubtedly still some way off.

Phase 6 moves the whole operation outdoors. The leavers edge towards their vehicles, still deep in  conversation. Some of them might even get into them – they have, after all, been on their feet for some time now and the weaker ones will be in need of a sit down. But the show is far from over and we’re in for at least another five minutes of goodbyes, punctuated by more hugs and kisses. Often someone has to rush back indoors at this point to bring out whatever’s been forgotten.

Phase 7 is usually initiated by an irritable spouse, whose lack of stamina (and patience) is now starting to show. The remaining members of the leaving party finally get into their waiting carriages, windows are wound down for the final goodbyes and eventually cars are driven off, to a final couple of minutes of waving.

The Osborne goodbye, on the other hand, is much more low key in comparison, exhibiting a laudable absence of fuss and an economy of overt emotion. We say what has to be said and, well, leave, really. My younger son recently observed that with an Osborne goodbye you sometimes don’t even realise that the leaving party has left. “Oh, have they gone then?” is not an uncommon phrase at an Osborne family gathering.

It’s not that we’re rude or off-hand, you understand. Not with all of our relatives at any rate – just a select few. We just don’t go in for lengthy goodbyes. Our ‘phone conversations tend to be similar – comparatively short and to the point, after the usual pleasantries have been exchanged. We tend to say what we want to say and then finish. Unlike the Thomas ‘phone conversation, which, as a rule, goes on for several hours. Days, even, or so it seems sometimes. When one of Mrs Oz’s sisters calls I know it’s time to go and do one of those little jobs I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Like redecorating the whole house or writing a book, for instance.

And so to the business continuity part. There’s a time and a place for lengthy conversations. But sometimes short and to the point is good.

This is particularly true in an incident management context. There are times when it’s appropriate to discuss things in some detail in order to gather whatever facts are available, examine the options and come to a decision. But, unfortunately, we don’t always have that luxury. More often, because time isn’t on our side, we need to get to the point quickly; to say what needs to be said and not too much else; to be decisive and to carry out the actions we’ve decided upon quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

The same can be said of our business continuity plans. Sometimes there’s good reason for a fair amount of detail, although not necessarily lots of verbiage – in our technical recovery plans, for instance, where detail can be very useful; indeed essential. And, as with incident management, sometimes detailed discussion is necessary to ensure we get things right. But, as often as not, plans that are clear and concise are much more useful to us.

In other words, the business continuity equivalent of an Osborne goodbye, rather than a Thomas one.

 

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