Tuesday, 19 March 2013

An Icy Crisis

Andy Osborne
Consultancy Director, Acumen
Author of Practical Business
Continuity Management
For those of you who know me, you may remember a blog I wrote about the trials and tribulations of working from home during a recent snowy period. What I didn’t mention was that the hassle of trying to work from home amid the Osborne menagerie was compounded by a small domestic crisis - the dreaded frozen pipes, which meant no running water in the kitchen for three days. And, more seriously, a non-functioning dishwasher and ice-machine in the freezer that couldn’t refill itself. I like to think that I cope reasonably well with most of the things that life throws at me, but washing up by hand and warm gin and tonic both come under the heading of “crisis” as far as I’m concerned.
The daft thing is that it happened last winter too. Only it was worse then because we ended up with burst pipes. And two indoor water features - a small waterfall cascading from our kitchen ceiling and a rather pretty fountain in the garage. So once I’d cleared up and repaired the offending leaks, I did a quick bit of risk management and set to insulating the pipes properly.
The trouble was that it seems I didn’t quite finish the job. I don’t remember why – hardly surprising really as I don’t actually remember not finishing. Presumably I found something more pressing or more interesting to do. Or maybe it was because it wasn’t much fun crawling around in the roof space above the kitchen. Anyway, I ended up up there again this year, squeezing into ridiculously small nooks and crannies with various bits of insulation. And jolly unpleasant it was too. The main problem was that I’m nowhere near bendy enough, and I never thought that, at the impressive height of 5’7″, I’d be too tall for anything. I ended up with a cricked neck and an aching back but, thankfully, no burst pipes.
But I fear I may be rambling. The point is that if I’d actually implemented the risk mitigation measures I identified last year properly, I’d have averted this latest crisis and wouldn’t have been in the predicament that I found myself in. Which isn’t all that dissimilar to the risk management efforts of some organisations that I’ve come across over the years.
The problem is that implementing risk mitigation measures often involves some effort or expense, or both. And quite often there’s something more pressing or more interesting to do. As a result, the mitigation measures are sometimes poorly implemented or not completed, or not monitored for their effectiveness. But the bottom line is that, to be effective, mitigation measures have to actually be done, rather than just written down in a risk register and forgotten about.
The second point, from a business continuity point of view is that, my own personal crisis happened during a particularly busy period work-wise, with some end of year deadlines looming. And my attention was somewhat diverted from these by my own problems. Many business continuity plans make no allowance for this and just assume that people will forget all about their own personal issues and be 100% available and focused on the recovery efforts of the organisation in question. I put it to you that this assumption may need a re-think.
A gin and tonic with ice!
I’m pleased to report that during the two subsequent cold spells our pipes remained unfrozen and the water continued to flow. And, most importantly, the washing up mountain has remained under control and the ice has been there for us when we needed it. Cheers!

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