Friday, July 7, 2023

Managing Risk

 K. Scott Griffith’s forthcoming book, The Leader’s Guide to Managing Risk, describes how most of what we see in terms of risky situations is just the tip of the iceberg. What we often fail to see are the numerous systems and people aspects lurking below the surface that need attention as well.

Griffith can tell us a lot about success and how to develop high-reliability, high-performance teams and systems. He’s had an enormous amount of success and is very familiar with systems thinking and how we all can create more robust mechanisms/systems/experiences for the probable risks. The author coaches us to think differently and coherently puts a way of thinking that can help us all.

It is, however, a pedestrian, common-man way of thinking through reliability, robustness and risk. I’m sure the author is familiar with a lot of techniques: accelerated failure testing, and the like, as well as Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA), which requires us to step through the mechanical, cyber-system, digital and human elements. We have to think through potential failures at each step, each element. We have to rate its probability of occurrence, its severity and the likelihood of detection. High scores in those three aspects necessitate mitigating efforts to reduce probability, reduce severity or improve detection. 

The author sufficiently covers redundancy to reduce probability (because we’re putting elements in parallel paths and “both” would have to fail). Not all systems can accommodate such mitigating factors. And humans are notoriously inept in multiple-stage “inspection” points—such as auditing, observing safety system changes, etc.: inspector A assumes inspectors B & C will catch the problems, while inspector B assumes A has already caught them or C will catch them….(you can probably guess inspector C’s reasoning as less-than-full attentiveness).

The audience for this book are the people who don’t want to pick up a small-ish article or book on FMEA.
[A scene from the movie, The Charge of the Light Brigade, a tragedy that could have been avoided with clearer communication and shared intelligence.]

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