Surviving the London Underground strikes

Posted by: in Corporate and Strategy, Insights on February 6, 2014

For those who may not have been aware, the London Underground unions commenced a 48-hour industrial action in response to proposed cuts to staff on the network, mostly in ticket offices. The walk out started at 9pm on Tuesday night, with severely reduced underground services, and central London being the most affected.

The real impact was certainly felt during rush hour the first morning of the strike – in fact yours truly’s journey time to the office more than doubled (and included a fair bit of walking!). I did finally make it to the office and joined my fellow “survivors” in swapping stories of how we braved adversity and emerged triumphant (though some more war-scarred than others).

In addition to a very good workout, one positive from the morning’s commute was three key learnings, which can be applied when dealing with an issue:

Know your landscape well because it will help you formulate your Plan B (and C, as needed) as quickly as possible
– Continuity planning is essential in any business to ensure you are well prepared for an unexpected issue. If you know the environment you work in well (in this case, like a map of London), you are more likely to make smarter decisions to immediately address your problem and move on your way.

Case study: I had read up on the reduced transport service and knew that the two lines at my station were running (one a normal service and the other a partial service) so I had a clear “roadmap” of my journey in my head. However, I was surprised to find the gates were shut when I arrived at my station and was even told the station would likely be closed the whole day. As I knew the nearest station was not too far away and could visualise the transport map in my head, I was able to work out how to catch a train that would eventually reunite me with my usual route.

Stay calm because panicking doesn’t help
– It is important to remember that in a crisis, everyone is in the same situation as you (and in the case of the tube strike, EVERYONE was trying to get the same alternative transport) so being in a frenzy is not going to help the situation or win you any sympathy points.

Case study: As I was waiting for my train, a very frazzled commuter was getting louder and louder in voicing her frustrations at a Transport for London volunteer who was trying to explain to her an alternative route. She wasn’t able to grasp the concept that she actually needed to go backwards to move forward and was still staring at the maps when I boarded my train (the volunteer had abandoned her in order to assist another group of stranded travellers).

Be decisive and move quick or you will become a victim of the situation
– Being able to make decisions fast allows you to stay one step ahead of the person next to you, which will help you get out of your sticky situation quicker (e.g. be it by bagging that last space on the bus)

Case study: It is possible to outwalk a bus, as one colleague proved – after assessing the situation at the bus stop, she decided to walk to work instead of waiting, and actually managed to overtake the bus she was unable to board while en route.

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