The ramblings of a travelling consultant – episode 4 (part 2)
After the day I’d had (see part 1) I thought things could only get better. Silly me. Unfortunately real life’s not always that considerate and it clearly has a sense of humour, if a somewhat warped one. Suffice it to say that they didn’t.
After finishing work I graunched my way, courtesy of my satnav (which led me, without major incident but in its own amusing way (see also ‘(Bitten to) death in Venice‘), via several side streets proudly sporting their various ‘traffic calming features’, to my hotel. I checked in and ascended to my floor in the world’s slowest lift, only to find that my card key didn’t work (really, is it just me?). So I returned to reception, queued again, had my card reset by a very apologetic receptionist, and lugged my bags, via the world’s slowest lift, back to my room.
I turned on the bathroom light and was greeted by a passable impression of a jumbo jet warming for take-off. I turned the light off and the noise stopped – sort of. It was replaced by a quieter, though irritatingly persistent, squeaking, rattling noise. In fairness, it didn’t sound terrible, but I just knew that in the wee small hours it was going to take on epic proportions. I knew this because I’d experienced it before – I’ll spare you the detail here but I promise I will tell you about it sometime.
So off I trudged to reception (again), queued (again) and asked to be moved to a different room, only to be told by the very apologetic hotel manager that this wasn’t actually going to help because all the rooms had the same issue, due to a known problem with the extraction system and that a man was coming to fix it next week. Which, as I calmly explained, was lovely news for anyone staying here after next week, but not awfully comforting for the current guests. So the manager personally led me back to my room and showed me how to turn the fan off, which involved standing on a chair, lifting a ceiling tile and ferreting around in the ceiling void for the switch. All a bit unexpected but at least it did the job.
Feeling a tad less than chilled after the day’s events, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice long soak in the bath to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that it had one of those taps that you turn one way for the bath and the other way for the shower. I turned it the other way. I have to say it was an impressively powerful shower, as evidenced by the spectacular – if a little too refreshing – amount of cold water it dumped on my head in the split second before I realised what was happening and turned it off again.
I eventually had my bath, had dinner and managed to make it to bed without further ado, but the unhappy experience got me thinking.
Firstly, none of the aforementioned incidents could, in itself, be termed a disaster but together they added up to a particularly bad day.
Disasters aren’t always huge, dramatic, “big bang” type incidents, but are sometimes the cumulative impacts of a series of unhappy events. And it’s interesting how many organisations don’t invoke their crisis management or business continuity plans until it’s far too late, because they don’t perceive the initial incident to be big enough to warrant it, or they see it as something that can be handled by normal business as usual processes. Then they find out too late that they couldn’t and things have escalated to epic proportions without them really noticing how horribly wrong things were going.
Secondly, even the calmest, most level-headed of us can get stressed when things go pear-shaped, particularly when the pear-shaped-ness continues for a protracted period. But few of us like to admit it. Particularly, in my experience, the members of the crisis or incident management team who generally like to think they’re superhuman – or, at least like to give that impression, because, after all, they’re senior people and are, therefore, bullet-proof – aren’t they?
Thankfully I managed to get through my own series of unhappy events relatively unscathed and lived to fight another day. I have little doubt that there will be another day though, so perhaps I should do my own post-incident review and update my plans accordingly.
Related articles : ‘Crisis? What crisis?’
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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 now ‘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