PhoneBox Perspectives

Worse Case Scenarios Help Organizations Plan

It can be scary work, so it’s often overlooked

Few of us want to spend a lot of time during our workday thinking about how things can go wrong. It’s depressing and sometimes you might feel as though you’re jinxing things and setting the stage for failure. Even though avoiding problems can be a great motivation for continuous improvement, it’s not the kind of motivation that typically moves hearts and minds. The result is that many business leaders push this kind of planning to the bottom of their task list and resolve to deal with issues as they arise.

Planning for risks is critical for you and your team

Whether you predict them or not, unexpected things will come up in your organization. The experience of COVID-19 was an extreme example, but smaller issues that can derail plans come along every day. Taking time to identify the top risks to your success creates an opportunity to outline the first actions you can take in response. Figuring out how to respond to a unplanned event while it happens is like trying to build a car while driving it.

These tips can keep risks and mitigation discussions focused and productive:

  • Use tools to help prioritize and quantify risks. The FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) is a great option and already part of the operating/quality systems of many businesses.
  • Set a time limit for the conversation. People are amazingly creative about what can go wrong; setting boundaries can keep the discussion focused.
  • Don’t expect to have a perfect response plan. Risks are unpredictable by nature; if your plan gets you 60-70% closer to being able to respond, you’re doing well.
  • Involve cross-functional stakeholders. Risks can take form quickly; be sure the team you’ll need for the response is part of the planning discussions so they can respond quickly.

You might never need your risks and mitigation plans but developing them is like having insurance – you’ll sleep better and can focus elsewhere.

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