Umberto Tunesi pixThere’s a number of factors that should be considered when facing and fighting risk.  Some of them can quantitatively or qualitatively affect the fight.

By quantitative aspects or factors I mean those that are most numerically present when studying a risk analysis project.  By qualitative I mean those, that, although may be present as “trace elements”, determine the result of the analysis and the outcome of the risk prediction and prevention.

A balanced combination of the two has to be planned and implemented if we want our campaign against risk to be successful.

Let’s start with quantitative aspects or factors.

Number 1 on the podium is certainly logistics followed by intelligence, then unpredictability, which includes faulty communications and adverse internal and or external conditions, such as personnel morale, propaganda.

Hierarchy and leadership come third, together with strategy and related errors, that can be however grouped together with the first two.

It’s understanding and managing these factors that determine success or failure.

But we’ve not finished yet, there’s also the risk itself and possible chaos.

And when we think of “strategy” we’ve also to think fighting “behind enemy lines.”   I think that this is exactly what QS 9000 meant by competitor intelligence.

Risk intelligence is a major resource or force when you want or need to fight it.

Qualitative aspects and factors are much more subtle, apparently, but they are usually very powerful.  Just think of a very small amount of a catalyst is added to a chemical reaction to speed it up.

The problem is that we keep looking at risk just as we look at quality.  We mainly care for the large numbers.  We scantly care for what the small numbers mean thus losing sight of what significant phenomena can tell or teach us.

There are, for example, pets to maintain morale high; or sayings, or chants.

I remember once in Brussels at an HACCP Train The Trainer course, the Trainer asking us trainees to jump and clap our hands after lunch break, to push us up.

There are bridgeheads, to break into Risk defensive lines, and gateways that we’d better maintain open.  Everywhere we look at and we look for, we find that risk is no impregnable fortress and that it can often be broken down by simple and often money-saving action, more than heavily bombing it with expensive CAPA’s.

We’ve to be more astute when fighting risk.  Just the same as when we do audits – or consultancy or training – we must not stop at the first evidence.  We’ve to look deeper into it.  What can look as conforming or not conforming evidence at a first glance, can be found just the opposite when investigated deeper.  When we consult or train, what can look initially difficult to the customer or to the classroom, can become instead much more easily “digested” when expressed in a different form.

I apologize: I’m not fond of any quality or risk – or whatever – audit, consulting, training check-list.   I find they’re too “fixed”, too strict, that anyone following them fails to see reality as it is.

One has to have his or her check and guiding path clear in his or her mind, and follow it.

Certainly, records are essentials but only as such.   I would only record the lower or higher peaks, leaving the background noise as a blank record.

Accreditation Bodies, registrars, consulting and training irganizations have made check-lists a Damocles’ sword.  If the check-list is not filled correctly, it will be rejected and the whole field operation probably nullified.

Doing so, they’ve made records more important than operations, and than operations’ results.

Certainly we’ve to assume that evidence is necessary.  But what evidence can some pages of often illegible paper sheets or hastily filled computer files give compared to operations’ factual results?

In one of my previous jobs, when I worked as certification manager for an international UK  registrar, wrong check-lists were preponderant to any error the auditors could make and made.  They were too concerned in filling out their check-lists in order to not audit the company’s  management system.

We must not overlook the risk of paying too much attention to documents – both their design and their use.

We must keep in mind that anti-risk practices are more a question of memory than of documentation, especially when quick reaction is needed.

I’ll never forget what I was taught to obsession: “one hand for yourself and the other to your support”, when I climbed oil refinery towers or learned to sail.  I don’t need any however documented instruction.

No documentation, however sophisticated it is, can replace the capacity of the human brain, when it is used properly.

Risk-fighting factors and aspects can be very limitative when only approached or used on quantitative or numerical bases.  It’s essential that their qualitative bases be taken care of, too.

Not many years ago, a European car maker, an affiliate of the Big Three, claimed that just one out of a million cars would lead to a lethal accident.

One in a million, it’s fair enough – but if I would be that one, it would be one hundred percent, and I wouldn’t care at all for the remaining 999,999.

So, you see that risk is not only a question of numbers.  It certainly is also a question of numbers but there’s a – let me say – flavor in it that those numbers do not touch.

Hence, let’s pay due attention to the small, apparently insignificant details that we’re confronted with when fighting risk.  If we want to win or at least leave the fight unscathed.

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