How Durable are Your Risk Mitigation Processes?
I love the story of how the United States spent thousands of dollars to develop a pen for space. The Soviets took a pencil. The story is great on multiple levels; it is, at first glance, an illustration of simple being better. But, upon closer examination, it demonstrates why one needs a broad view when evaluating processes. Imagine being in zero gravity and sharpening that pencil. I’m no electrical engineer, but I’d bet graphite dust in zero gravity with electronics isn’t a good thing. You’d probably need to spend thousands of dollars to develop a sharpener. (By the way, this story is an urban legend. The pressurized ink cartridge was invented by Paul C. Fisher and patented in 1965. It was only after its invention that it was sold to both the U.S. & U.S.S.R. space agencies.)
When developing ITAD processes, understanding the world in which that process will operate is critical to its being effective. A great way to do this is to remember the concept of process durability. Durable processes can take a licking and keep on ticking. Their design has considered the environment in which they will operate and has accounted for it. For example, one would not design a process that relies on verbal communication to operate inside noisy industrial environment. One would not design a process that requires visual cues to operate at night.
By starting to identify potential sources of process failure, one is forced to clarify the world in which the process lives. Understanding those interactions and impacts is critical to success.
When looking at risk management processes, like those for the retirement of data bearing assets, environments and resource availability can vary widely. Creating durability requires we account for all of it. What happens when someone is out sick? Or when they depart the company? How much variation in the process can we withstand before we see risk levels rise to unacceptable levels? Designing processes to be durable requires we play Devil’s Advocate. Rose colored glasses are the enemy of process durability and pessimism is required.
Now, having said that, understanding a process’s operating environment need not be a complete exercise in gloom and doom. As you’re looking for sources of external variance you are bound to also find things that will contribute to process reliability. Durability can be enhanced via external sources and identifying them can be as important as identifying risks.
So, don’t forget to think about the world surrounding your process. Take some time to think about how durable your process is, and as you’re identifying and engineering out external risks, look for ways to use the environment to your advantage.
Durable processes are ultimately more cost-effective processes. When not considered up front, durability is developed from the knowledge gained over multiple failures, most of which are negative experiences for your customer. It’s a bit like that old oil commercial, “You can pay me now or pay me later.”
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Tell me where you’ve learned your lessons around process durability and how they have shaped your thinking today.