A major accident or single-cause failure may not always be the spark that leads to a crisis or disaster. Any normal accident or even a routine failure (something that always occurs) can lead to a crisis.
Why is this so? Normal accidents are often assumed to be taken care of by predefined actions such as safety measures, standby and backup systems, quality control, training, and reviews. These assumptions cause people to overlook the simple problems which may not be resolved and can culminate into risks. Furthermore, warning mechanisms often fail to detect underrated/smaller/less significant risks. For example, minor failures in the IT infrastructures coupled with the original complexities in the system can further complicate matters and lead to high-risk issues.
One takeaway for organisations is to be wary of small problems or issues that fall under the cracks of and remain hidden outside the purview of the organisation. If a small issue takes root within the complicated system or network infrastructure of an organisation, it is hard to detect until it swells into an issue that is unpreventable and unanticipated. During that time, it may be very resource-intensive to respond to the crisis. Moreover, even if the decision-makers within the organisation can come up with a lifesaving strategy, some negative impacts would have already been made.
What can be better done?
Paying heed to possible issues and analysing their chances of morphing into an irreversible risk can prove extremely helpful in preventing problems from enlarging. It also provides sufficient time for the various stakeholders in the organisation to develop multiple responding measures and contingency plans.
It is always important to revisit and fool-proof an organisation’s risk strategy. One way to do so is to check against these three fundamental questions:
- What can go wrong?
- What if the strategies go wrong?
- What if the contingency plans go wrong?