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Discovering Operational Resilience (or How an A5 flyer saved an Organisation)

Scene setting

Flight 59 began its descent in to Capetown at 1000 local time on a sunny August morning.  For Mike Phillips, Marketing Director of HAB Valves, life was good.  This morning, there would be a routine test of the new (hot air balloon) valve; routine because their test record was “first time, every time”.  This afternoon, a meeting with an existing client wanting the new valve in time for the ballooning season start in December.  Wrap up the deal and there may even be some time for golf.

Thirty minutes later, Mike was in a taxi for the journey to his hotel.  It was 1040 (0940 BST) with the Press release for the successful test scheduled for 1000 BST.  His mobile rang, it was Sarah, PA to the three Directors.   Mike listened in horror as the normally unflappable Sarah tearfully told him about carnage at the factory.  His fellow Directors, Jason and Richard, designers of the valve, had been seriously injured, when testing the valve.  Richard and three production workers had suffered burns, requiring hospitalisation and Jason was unconscious.

Only three staff, including Sarah, remain uninjured but all are in a state of shock.  The Company had not considered that the test was anything but straightforward. However, the reputation of the organisation and its future will depend on what it does next.

Mike thought back to a few months ago when a Business Continuity event had been held at his Golf Club.  After the event had finished, he recalled seeing a few forlorn flyers, advocating Organisation Resilience, on a table awaiting recycling.


Ending A

Doom merchants, he thought, it will never happen to us.  He quickly snapped out of his reverie.

“What actions have been taken?” asked Mike.  Sarah said that “the emergency services had been advised and should be here soon.  The press have already heard about it and sorry, but I have given them your number.  I didn’t know what else to do.”  Another call was coming in, a local number.  Mike knew this afternoon’s meeting was off, maybe for good.  That would have to wait, what could he do?  “Okay Sarah, make sure it’s you that tells Kylie” (Jason’s wife).  He would have to think quickly.

Unfortunately for Mike, the next time his phone rang, it was a reporter from a British broadsheet wanting to know what was happening and as good as operator as Mike was, he was unable, with scant information, to respond to the probing questions of “How did it happen. Where have the injured been taken, have the next of kin been informed, what will this mean for the future of HAB Valves?”  At least, Mike knew the answer to that one!


Ending B

We have grown so much, he thought.  Organisational Resilience is worth looking at and liberated a flyer.  He quickly snapped out his reverie.

“What actions have been taken?” asked Mike.  Sarah, composed herself “After calling the Emergency Services and the Insurance Company who will send a Loss Adjuster tomorrow morning, I opened the Industrial Incident Plan in the Incident Management System.  Pete, who is shaken but functioning, is monitoring social media for adverse reaction.  Anna has been a brick and taken responsibility for informing the next of kin of Robert, Thomas, Richard and Henry who have all been taken to the Burns Unit at City Hospital.   If you can take command now, the Police will take me to see Kylie (Jason’s wife) who I have informed about the accident but she doesn’t know the extent of his injuries.  Oh, and Mark, you are scheduled to face the media at your hotel at noon, local time.  Anna will make a transcript of your responses and replay this to any callers”.  Mike thanked Sarah “make sure you are with Kylie before my interview, send my love and stay with her as long as she needs you and then get yourself home.  I will call security and ask them to lock up today”.

1110 already, but “media Mike” was coming to the fore.  Because of the injuries to his best friends and colleagues, it was up to him to save the day.  Mike despite his likeable persona, was a fighter. Could something be salvaged?  Another call was coming in, a local number.  Mike knew this afternoon’s meeting was off, but maybe not for good?

Mike, requested the taxi driver to arrive at the hotel at precisely 1155, logged into the Incident Management System through his mobile, studied the incident and, at noon, gave the performance of his life.  After expressing his shock and paying tribute to his friends and colleagues in the HAB family, he committed to providing the best treatment for the injured and counselling for affected staff and relatives.

He then concentrated on the Company’s previous 100% testing record and provided answers to all questions the media posed.  HAB Valves would return to production, once the reason for the accident had been established.  He was booked on the evening flight to London and would be in the office in time to issue a further statement at 1000 BST, before meeting with the Loss Adjuster.

One o’clock and his mobile rang again.  It was Johan, his client.    “Heck of performance, Mike.  Anything planned before you return to England?  If not, the Board Room is still available.  Let’s talk about what will happen when you are back in production.  Sorry to hear about your friends.”

The meeting with Johan resulted in a significant order, conditional on resolution of the fault and being able to meet an end-November delivery.

On the flight back, he reflected on picking up that flyer and calling the number of an insurance specialist who recommended a number of options for HAB Valves.  As a result, the Directors had agreed an Organisational Resilience package including Key Man Insurance, Business Interruption Insurance and having Business Continuity Plans embedded in an Incident Management System.

Mike discovered Organisational Resilience by chance.  Will you be so fortunate?


Information on this blog

All the companies and characters in the above are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

The authors of this blog, Phil West and Chris Simms, both Directors of Continuity West are very much alive and using MIMS (Major Incident Management System) to support more than 80 organisations with Incident Management Software in Education, Business and the Public Sector. 

If you want to follow the (mis)fortunes of HAB Valves, subsequent blogs will appear on this website.