Preventing the Nightmare

Halloween is right around the corner.  It’s perhaps the most obscure holiday ever.  Children dress in random costumes and come to your house like the neighborhood mafia, demanding candy for “protection”, lest they vandalize your lawn with toilet paper and plastic dinnerware. 

Such a joyous time.

Soon you will be visited by dozens of kids decked out in superhero gear.  Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are always favorites.  Seeing them come to the door brings me such feelings of nostalgia.  When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were spent watching the Super Friends.   My regular viewing created a love for heroes that persists to this day.  And I’m not alone.

Consider your last employee recognition event.  The leader of your organization probably handed out the “Above and Beyond” award, or some other similarly titled honor.  More often than not, such an award is presented to someone who ran faster than a locomotive, leaped over a tall building, and put out fires with her ice cold breath in order to salvage a failing project. 

But how often do you recognize those that do it right the first time?

Unfortunately, we tend to recognize and reward those who solve the organizational “fires” that never should have occurred in the first place.  Why?  Because WE LOVE HEROES!  There is a reason that there’s no Preventive Action Man (PAM) at the Hall of Justice.  He and Clark Kent are still trying to get Lois Lane to return their calls.  And besides, a guy walking around with a spreadsheet and actuarial tables?  Worst.  Costume.  Ever.

In our experience, leaders are great at firefighting activities.  But, firefighting is costly.  If you want your project to succeed, you should also include preventive thinking into your risk assessments.  Here’s how:

  1. Identify what could go wrong:  We call it negative brainstorming.  Though it’s never a popular topic when people are excited about a new project, take time in advance to think of all of the potential problems that could derail the project. 
  2. Develop preventive actions:  People often think of “firefighting’ type actions first.  While these can reduce the seriousness of the problems when they occur, they don’t prevent problems  Make sure you have an action plan to reduce the likelihood of problems, not just their impact.
  3. Assign Roles:  We tend to assign risk-reduction tasks to a team. But here’s the problem with that mentality-if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.  Assign preventive actions to specific individuals and hold them accountable to completing the actions.

In over thirty years of working with our clients, we understand that you can’t prevent every problem from occurring. But you do increase your chances of success and reduce the cost of firefighting if you take steps ahead of time to reduce the number of fires you’ll face.  And don’t forget to reward the PAMs out there.  You know who they are – they’re the ones you never have to think about.  And if you need help developing some PAMs for your own risky business, just call us and let’s talk it over (800) 386-5611. 







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