This little piggy (or the ramblings of a travelling consultant, episode 10)
I recently found myself on an early morning train to London. Aside from having to get up at a time starting with a four, an activity verging on the tortuous for an inveterate non-morning person, it was a tad unusual, being the first time in quite some time that I’d done it. Even more unusual is the fact that I’m writing a blog about it, given that, to my shame, it’s over a year since I wrote my last one.
As my long-standing readers will appreciate, in the days when the world was relatively normal, I used to travel a fair bit (see ‘The ramblings of a traveling consultant’, episode 1, 2, 3, 4 (parts 1 and 2), 5, 6 (parts 1 and 2), 7, 8, and 9). In fact, for more years than I care to (or, to be honest, can actually) remember, most weeks it was unusual for me to be seen in the office very much, if at all. It kind of went with the territory, as I’m sure some of you, particularly my fellow consultants, will relate to. Then, about three years ago, that pesky global pandemic came along and changed things, in many ways, for many people. For me, one of the main changes was to the way I delivered, and continue to deliver, services to my clients, to which the brave new world of home working and online meetings has had a major contribution. Most meetings and many workshops, exercises and training sessions can now be done online, reducing the need to be on-site. Notwithstanding the lack of face-to-face contact, this has been a breath of fresh air for me, as the days of travelling four or five hours for a one or two hour meeting, or a two-day round trip for a half-day workshop are largely, and thankfully, a thing of the past. However, as I used to write most of my blogs on trains or planes or in hotel rooms or even motorway service stations, the curtailment of the aforementioned activities has had a corresponding negative impact on my blogging output.
In fairness, in the meantime I’ve posted a bunch of Tips of the Month and had another book published (cue shameless plug for Business Continuity Management Simplified) so I haven’t neglected my readers entirely, but life just seems to have got in the way of writing the less serious (and, if I’m honest, for me at least, the more enjoyable) stuff. So I thought it was about time I got my finger out and put pen to paper – or, more accurately, fingers (two of them to be precise) to keyboard. But what to write about? A fair amount has happened since my last blog, over a year ago, so it’s difficult to know where to start.
Aside from the home working/Teams/Zoom* thing (* other platforms are, apparently available), the past three years have seen some significant events for me, both personally and business-wise, including both of my sons properly leaving home, the exciting, though hugely stressful installation of a greenhouse, a massive argument with the company I used to lease my car from, our purchase and complete failure to work out how to use a telescope, the enforced imprisonment of our chickens and ducks thanks to two avian flu epidemics, my thus-far failed attempts at semi-retirement and my latest sporting injury (all of which I’m saving for future blogs, so if you have a burning desire to hear about any of those things, let me know in the comments and I’ll bump it up the list). But then along came the London gig, including a couple of hours of train time on the way back to make some notes, so I thought I’d tell you about it.
I have to confess here to some psychological baggage. I’ve never been a huge fan of crowds but, post-Covid, my aversion increased significantly. So, on arrival at Paddington station, I decided against the option of a crowded tube train packed with sweaty, miserable people and elected instead to take a stroll across London.
A three and a half mile ‘stroll’ to be precise. Which took me through Hyde Park, along the Mall, past Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s column, and various other landmarks that I hadn’t seen on any of my numerous previous business trips to London, on account of most of the travelling being via various large holes in the ground. So it was actually quite a pleasant walk. At least for the first couple of miles or so. Then it got ever-so-slightly less pleasant, as it turns out that work shoes aren’t the ideal footwear for hiking in. Who’d have thought it? To be fair I should have, as I had a somewhat similar experience with a yomp* around Rome some years ago (as mentioned in ‘The comfort factor‘). The unpleasantness occurred as the result of my right shoe rubbing remorselessly against one of my toes – the one that went “wee wee wee all the way home” to be a little more precise.
As a slight aside, I was horrified recently to find out that the “this little piggy went to market” thing isn’t about piglets going on a lovely shopping trip or for a meal with their little piggy friends; rather the trauma of said pigs at various stages of their journey to the slaughterhouse. While researching this I also discovered the origins of several other nursery rhymes, most of which are equally horrible, so I won’t go into them here.
But I digress. I staggered on, manfully (am I allowed to say that these days or do I now have to say ‘personfully’? Which isn’t actually a word – at least according to my dictionary. Although my dictionary says the word ‘they’ is a plural, so I’m not sure if I can actually trust it) for the next mile or so, gritting my teeth and putting up with the discomfort, finally arriving at my destination with a pronounced limp. I nipped into the facilities and surreptitiously removed my shoe and sock to survey the damage – a rosy-red toe, swollen to about twice it’s normal size, which throbbed like a beacon. Concluding that there wasn’t an awful lot I could do about it, I re-socked and re-shoed, gritted my teeth and got on with things – a martyr to the cause if ever there was one.
The session went fine, thanks for asking. Better still, my host laid on refreshments afterwards, so I partook of a glass of bubbly before hitting the road. Very enjoyable it was too – so much so that I’m thinking of including it as a rider in all of my contracts for training courses and exercises going forward.
To cut an already too-long story short, I decided on a significantly shorter walk and a taxi ride back to the station and completed my journey home without further incident, albeit with my little piggy going throb, throb, throb, rather than wee, wee, wee all the way home. Without further incident, that is, other than Barney standing on my little piggy while I was changing out of my working attire, resulting in a passable imitation of said piggy by yours truly.
It’s been so long since I wrote a blog that I almost forgot to include a tenuous link to business continuity, but here it is :
The first observation is that we need to understand the limitations and fitness for purpose of our plans, the tools we use to create and implement them, and the people we’re likely to call upon to do so. “Right tools for the job” and all that, as well as the ‘fitness’ of key people (e.g. crisis/incident management team members) for that job. Which implies the need for some awareness, training and exercising to develop that ‘fitness’. It’s really easy to get out of practice – particularly if you don’t practice for years (or at all)!
Secondly, I’ve spoken and written several times in the past about psychological baggage. Most of us have some, whether it’s the size of a small handbag/manbag, a medium-sized duffel bag or a huge packing case that’s really difficult to lug around. I could be wrong but I’d hazard a guess that many of my friends, colleagues and even family members see me as a reasonably rational, together type of chap. If only they knew that I’m as much a seething mass of psychological and emotional baggage as the next person (see ‘Baggage allowance‘ and ‘Dental mental case‘ for a couple of relatively minor examples). The point here is that very few people are aware of the baggage that their friends, colleagues and other acquaintances have stashed away and how that might conflict with their assumptions about what people might be willing or able to do to support the crisis/incident management efforts. I could regale you with several experiences of people (some very senior) having that baggage dredged up during scenario exercises, to the extent that it’s affected their ability to participate, but I’ll spare you on this occasion.
True to form, I started writing this this latest tale of woe several weeks ago, but then life got in the way and I had to park it for a while. As I finally put the finishing touches to it, my little piggy’s previous red hue and swelling is long gone, initially replaced by a serious case of purple toenail syndrome, followed by said toenail and piggy parting company. An altogether unpleasant experience, which could have been avoided had I not failed to plan adequately and select the right tools (in this case shoes) for the job. I do, however, now realise why so many people I’ve seen on their way to work in London and other cities wear trainers with their smart outfits. I used to think it was some kind of throwback to those crazy ’80s but now I realise it’s merely sensible piggy protection.
* yomp (intransitive verb) To walk or trek in a determined, dogged or laboured manner, esp heavily laden; To carry heavy equipment on foot over difficult terrain
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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 ‘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.