The Injured Attendee
I was running a public training course on business improvement and wanted to run an interactive case study on disputed contract variations. To do this I broke the class into two teams and asked them to negotiate a settlement to the dispute.
The Case Study
The first team was the procurement department for a fictitious large organisation and the other team was the sales department for a fictitious supplier. The background is that during the contract delivery there had been several variations, but the philosophy of the parties at the time was not to worry about the paperwork but to ‘get the work done and argue later’. I was trying to show - through this case study - that this is not a good philosophy because it Is more productive to get the paperwork right as they were doing the work.
I read out the instructions and a summary of the case and broke the participants into two teams. I sent the team closest to the door out to the next room. The instructions to the teams were that they would be given 20 minutes to read the case and prepare the arguments for when they met the other group face-to-face in the classroom.
After this preparation time was over, they met and started their face-to-face negotiations. Each party was making offers and counteroffers. After a while, the parties agreed to adjourn, return to their allocated room and discuss the next steps.
I went to visit the group that moved to the neighbouring room. I recall a lady sitting at the end of the table who wanted to start summarising the case on a flip chart -
She wanted to get it. I only wanted to be a gentleman and push it over to her. Unfortunately, as I pushed it one of the wheels got stuck in the carpet and the flip chart stand fell and hit her on the head cutting her face.
As you can imagine this was traumatic for everyone, especially the injured lady. However, she was fantastic about it. “It is not a problem…” as the blood dripped down from the cut. She was the nicest person you could ever meet, and all worked out well. She declined our offer to take her to the hospital and stayed for the rest of the two-day class. Her attitude to life greatly impressed me.
I started thinking about the situation. I have obligations including my duty of care to the participants and hence I now see why my clients insist on me having public liability insurance cover in case of an accident. I started to think more about risk and noted that the International Risk Manager Standard ISO 31000 defines risk as ‘the effect of uncertainty on objectives’.
The accident was a good learning exercise for me. I am especially aware of risks now in my work and social environments. I am more vigilant as risk is uncertainty that matters. Thus, we need to continually try to identify, assess, treat and then monitor and review risks. I am more careful in and out of class.
Risk is uncertainty that matters. We need to be aware of the uncertainty around us that does matter, as we have an obligation to not cause bodily, financial or reputational injury. Another takeaway was seeing the lady’s positive behaviour in times of accident and stress.
Associate Professor Cyril Jankoff is Associate Dean, Scholarship; an Associate Director, Undergraduate Studies; and a Fellow of the Centre for Scholarship and Research (since 2021)