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Jim Rohn’s quote “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day”. That quote struck a chord with the recent failure at Oroville dam, as indeed failures do not happen overnight.
Here is a tenative list of historic deviances:
This list looks a lot like an example drawn from Jim’s quote or, as we would call it in risk adviser glossary: normalization of deviance.
When we perform a Risk assessment, or the review of one prepared by others, we usually carry out inquiries with key personnel. Key personnel covers key figures, not just management. We keep wondering at how this simple technique is efficient in delivering “untold truths”. That is especially true when compared to the usual workshops where alpha-dogs dominate the room.
The inquiries are also good for understanding the system under consideration. Defining the system is indeed paramount. That is especially since normalization of deviance can creep up and transform a perfectly functional system into a deficient one unbeknownst to people close to the system itself.
Examples of catastrophes due to normalization of deviance are:
Below are a few pointers to a solution.
Do you keep track of near misses in a database that can be cross checked by type of hazards, threats-from and threats-to?
Those data are important to detect normalization of deviance.
To do this a proper definition of “business as usual” is important as well as “force majeure” and out of norm event.
Defining success criteria and their mirror image, i.e. the failure criteria is paramount. Without these clear definitions any attempt to evaluate performances, operational and tactical risks will be vane.
If your risk register have automatic triggers that update the values of likelihood (probability) and consequences after each event or at predefined time interval, you are in control!
Your risk register should fully empower you to act where you need to maximize efficiency and give you a clear road map.