Saturday, 17 October 2009

Post Strike? So What?

So we now know that we are to face what is likely to become a long postal strike. Papers today report the Communication Workers Union as feeling stronger and more confident than Arthur Scargill before the miners' strike. This could herald a long difficult period for law firms who still, in general, prefer to deal in hard-copy.

Fortunately you saw this one coming. A post strike was one of the risks you identified as part of your standard risk planning. You analysed how much mail you send and receive, you've identified the clients who are very "paper heavy" and you've talked with them about arrangements during the strike period. You've setup an email confirmation system so that you know when post has been received. You also set up accounts with couriers - local, national and international.

You did do that, didn't you? Oh dear... I'd suggest that you get on with all of that as soon as possible. Whilst your clients will know there is a post strike, they will probably assume that, as a professional organisation, you will be ready.

If you have doubted the need for risk management and contingency planning, this is a concrete example of its benefits. If you find yourself in the unhappy position of scrambling about over the next few days sorting things out (to the detriment of your real business) then please set plans in place to consider other risks. An hour in advance saves three hours in a panic.

If you are feeling a little smug because you do have a risk system in place and you do have a suitable contingency plan then (a) you probably should - congratulation, but (b) make sure you "debrief" in a few weeks to see if there is anything to learn or anything you could have done better.

Finally on the subject of risk management - have you considered Reputational risk. The recent mess surrounding Trafigura and Carter-Ruck shows two things. Firstly the need to have a plan in place to deal with bad publicity (or even a plan to review clients before you act for them?). Secondly this affair shows the power of the new or social media. While Carter-Ruck seemed to successfully gag the Guardian and (second hand) the BBC, they were incapable of doing anything about public discussion, fascilitated by Twitter. Food for thought for us all - and something to be considered the next time you are reviewing risk.

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