12.11.18 / Posted by jirehconsult

I’d wager you’re already familiar with Murphy’s Law. If you’re unsure, does the phrase ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ ring any bells? That’s Murphy’s Law.

Who’s the unfortunate chap who had this less than desirable “law” attributed to him? That would be Ed Murphy, an aerospace engineer with the United States Air Force. Story has it that in the 1940s, Murphy was assisting the Air Force run tests on rocket sleds. After installing the sensors to read G-force measurements onto the harness, preparing the sled, manning the vehicles and getting everything properly launched, the crew discovered that the sensors had been installed backwards.

After all of that prep work, the readings were unreliable. “If there’s any way they can do it wrong, they will,” Murphy reportedly grumbled. Several weeks following the faulty installation, Col. John Stapp held his first press conference in which a reporter wondered how there had been no injuries during the high-speed trials. “We do all of our work in consideration of Murphy’s Law,” Stapp replied. Of course, Stapp then had to explain what Murphy’s Law was, adding they had learned ’to think through all possibilities before doing a test.’

This train of thought to anticipate various scenarios that may affect an entity prior to executing an action is taught in business schools as contingency planning. Typically adverse events come to mind first in contingency planning, however, contingency plans should also address positive events that might disrupt operations, such as an overly enthusiastic crowd which leads to bottlenecks in service.

Contingency plans are an important element in the build-up to carrying out a plan of action. Even if they are not carried out in depth, there will certainly be some level of thought put into running through different scenarios. In that vein, it should come as no surprise that planning for contingencies and the ability to think on your feet are a staple in our field of Public Relations work.

A pre-event briefing to the team involved in a particular project helps get everyone up to speed and on the same page on their respective roles and responsibilities – similar to a pre-game tactics discussion in football, or any other team sport. Questions can be asked, answered and discussed to iron out any kinks and reduce haziness. Scenarios can be thrown into the mix, along with guidelines and navigate through them to at best prevent or at worst minimise negative outcomes.

Awareness and understanding of flow allows for a smoother execution during crunch hour(s); it reduces chances of mishaps and oversight. Just like in a football match, the ability to tweak and alter tactics on the fly can vastly increase likelihood of achieving a desired result. It is no different during an event. Being prepared to do so, even on something that may seem trivial, can make or break the event, be it for the client, guests or media.

Semper Paratus, for anything that can go wrong, will go wrong after all.

November 2018