Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: Vacuum (&) bags

I was reading a book the other day.

Not a very good book, but it had one scenario that appealed to me.

The scene is set at an airline's Lost Bags office.

As a consultant, I know the scene very well.

Seems the author and his bags got separated and he was waiting in line to report the loss.

The airline person was asking the person at the front of the queue about his luggage.

    Clerk: "What color is it?"

    Traveler: "I don't know."

    Clerk: "How big is it?"

    Traveler: "I don't know."

At this point, the author tells us he's wondering what idiot doesn't know the color or size of his bag?

Then, the author continues, he learns - to his embarrassment - that the person in front is blind.

The author's point, and it is a good one, is that we should get all the facts before we come to a conclusion.

The story, when given some thought, seems to ring as false.

If we can assume our blind passenger didn't get off the plane and go directly to the Lost Bags office, consider this:

    Our traveler goes to the baggage carousel.

    He can't see the bags as they go round-and-round.

    So he needs help from someone nearby.

    To get help he needs to tell the helpful neighbor something about the bag.



    Something unique - a colorful strap, an unusual luggage tad, something.

Things the traveler could, and I'm confident would, have known and shared with the Lost Bags clerk.

(Do you know anyone who would buy or borrow a suitcase without knowing ANYTHING about it?)

'Course if our sightless traveler was high tech, the bag may have had a small transmitter, but there was no indication of this and, besides, it ruins my story.

The point I'm trying to make is if our author had batted around the idea with others before setting the story to paper he might have seen the "holes" I found.

Believe it or not, THAT is the point of this exercise.

Practitioners should never - repeat never - create a plan in a vacuum.

One person simply will not think of "everything."

I was in a meeting the other day and we were dealing with a violence in the workplace scenario.

The group mulling the situation - a person, believed to be a disgruntled employee came to the office building with a shotgun, blew away the weaponless guards, and proceeded up a staircase to the fourth floor - included Facilities, HR, IT, and Security, and maybe others representing interests I don't catch.

The exercise was interesting. We had input from a variety of perspectives, both professional and personal.

I was the only professional risk management practitioner in the group.

Trust me, I learned things; I was introduced to "what ifs" I had not considered, "what its" I normally would not consider on my own.

I've been doing risk management for more than a baker's dozen years, and every time I'm involved in an event such as the one the other day I learn something new - or at least I'm reminded of something that might have slipped my mind.

While it often is fun to play the "what if" game with other practitioners - we do have some interesting "off-the-wall" experiences - we need to listen to ALL sources, even if we think they are talking outside their professional area of expertise.

I practice what I preach.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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