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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” struck a chord with the recent failure at Oroville dam, as indeed failures do not happen overnight.
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, and not just with management. We keep being surprised at how this simple technique is efficient in delivering “untold truths” 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 paramount, 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:
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 empower you fully to act where it is needed and give you a clear road map.