Some things are hard to predict. And others are unlikely. In business, as in life, both can happen at the same time, catching us off guard.

The consequences can cause major disruption, which makes proper planning, through business continuity management, an essential tool for businesses that want to go the distance.

The Millennium brought two nice examples, both of the unpredictable and the improbable. For a start, it was a century leap year. This was entirely predictable (it occurs any time the year is cleanly divisible by 400). But it’s also very unlikely, from a probability perspective: in fact, it’s only happened once before (in 1600, less than 20 years after the Gregorian calendar was introduced).

A much less predictable event in 2000 happened in a second-hand bookstore in the far north of rural England. When the owner of Barter Books discovered an obscure war-time public-information poster, it triggered a global phenomenon. Although it took more than a decade to peak, just five words spawned one of the most copied cultural memes ever: Keep Calm and Carry On.

From propaganda to public safety

The phrase dates from 1939, a period before management systems existed as a defined approach, but it nicely sums up the importance of perseverance and keeping a cool head when crises loom. Although when it comes to dealing with the complexities of a modern business, there’s a bit more to it than just keeping a stiff upper lip, as James Crask, Convenor of the ISO working group on continuity and organizational resilience, explained to me.


ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management System

ISO 22301 specifies requirements to plan, establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and continually improve a documented management system to protect against, reduce the likelihood of occurrence, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptive incidents when they arise. Find out more

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