Do I confidently understand the risks and hazards of the business or undertaking? Trick question. This appears on an article on due diligence and it should cause you come up with some of those uncomfortable issues you come up with when a consultant asks you ‘what keeps you awake at night?’
It’s only an occasional thing, but sometimes I play around with search terms on the web to see how many hits I get for terms common in an area but conceptually different. Let’s go old school and stay with OHS (occ health and safety), and combine it with complexity then compare that with OHS / management. I get roughly double the number of hits when the term management is used instead of complexity. Occasionally you do get management and complexity together and it makes for interesting reading.
Take a quick scroll through a presentation by Dunmire for NASA. Now these guys really are rocket scientists, and Dunmire says upfront that responsibilities need to ‘be real’. Looked at retrospectively, bad outcomes often make sense, but looking at the situation before the event, the interaction of all those factors cannot be predicted. That’s complexity. Dunmire also looks to incremental change, something which Dekker writes about in his book Drift into failure. Some of these incremental changes are not going to even be recognizable as each business day rolls by. Over time, yes, but not in the moment.
It’s going to be an interesting day when in a court of law, someone shows how difficult it is for an individual (person in control of a business undertaking or PCBU) to ‘predict’ an incident using the standard tools at their disposal. When money is getting tighter and tighter, the tools needed to ‘manage complexity’ are often thought too expensive. And THAT might just be why we lose the smart managers with a bit of foresight, because they can see the writing on the wall!