because failure IS an option
‘Avoiding Catastrophe’ is the overarching concept behind all management decision making that takes place in the face of adversity. It concerns itself with problems, setbacks, difficulties, failures, accidents, and errors, seeking to minimise their impact and prevent catastrophic outcomes in the shape of irreversible damage to an organisation, its capabilities, functioning, even its existence.
This is not the normal focus of management thinking. Managers, leaders, entrepreneurs, commanders, usually concentrate their energies on achieving success, goals, objectives, tasks, the mission. They ask the question, ‘how do we get to where we want to be ?’. This is understandable, it reflects a determination to succeed, a desire to prevail, a ‘can do’ attitude without which nothing is ever accomplished.
Here on the other hand, we ask a different question, ‘how can this go horribly wrong ?’. We do so because in any human enterprise, failure IS an option, one which is ever present, and the possibility that things can turn out disastrously is a factor that needs to be built into any strategy for success. In reality, plans, activities, operations, are always in danger of spinning out of control, and often do. This is simply a fact of life.
Effective management decision making has to reflect both sides of this reality, a ‘can do’ mentality that believes success is achievable, and an awareness that the organisation may already be on a path to destruction. Alongside indicators of success, managers need to know where to find warnings of imminent failure, in time to take corrective action, and what such action should look like if it is to prevent the position degenerating further. This requires a particular skill set, knowledge base, and a specific kind of leadership style.
‘Avoiding Catastrophe’ sets out to explore and uncover how to ‘cope with the bad stuff’, to design and build resilience into an organisation, develop its ability to minimise the impact of harmful events, prevent their escalation into crises, and recover from adversity. Its scope spans existing disciplines such as risk management, incident control, business continuity, product recalls, crisis communications, emerging areas such as crisis and emergency response, and the ground breaking innovation of programs such as ‘High Consequence Decision Making (HCD) being developed by the military. Its audience includes managers and decision makers at all levels, as well as specialists in the various disciplines covered. In addition to thought leadership in this field, ‘Avoiding Catastrophe’ will offer tools and products, training guides, and other practical materials to assist organisations minimise their chances of irreversible damage arising out of adverse situations.