Posts Tagged Risk

The Suddenness of Trouble

Sometimes, things go wrong in projects, no matter how carefully we work to prevent them. I’ve noticed that when a crisis hits, people often say (and I always feel) “why didn’t you notice earlier?”. Typically, in hindsight, there’s been multiple signs that things are not going in the right direction, but nobody has taken any forceful action to correct them. And suddenly, we’re in crisis mode, with everybody doing everything possible to fix what looks likely to be a disaster.

It’s a bit like what happens when you slowly pour grains of sand onto a pile. The pile keeps getting higher, then suddenly something breaks and there’s an avalanche.

I wonder if this is good, bad or neither. I think it is probably a little bit bad, it must be better to be able to detect and react to the signs of trouble while they are still signs as opposed to actual trouble.

More to the point, though, I wonder if the avalanches are avoidable. I guess the only way to do so is to always treat any kind of problem as a mini-crisis and act forcefully to deal with it. It seems like the cost of doing that – much of the time one would be chasing ghost problems – is probably too high. So it would be my best guess that having ‘step’ reactions to problems and feeling that ‘I should have realised sooner’ is pretty much the way things should be. Hopefully, with experience, the grains of sand will line up earlier so the avalanches are smaller.