“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the old adage goes.  However, when things go awry, are we prepared for the repercussions?  How costly will it be to react blindly, rather than be ready and trained for action?


Whether it’s not keeping on top of inventory so a stocked-out item in our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system appears to be in stock when it’s not, to a natural disaster knocking power grids offline, can we learn from these rare occurrences rather than writing them off as a statistical outlier?  Perhaps there’s value in viewing these failures as a process, rather than an outcome (Azadegan).  Everything is fine, until it’s not.

Ashraf Labib and Martin Read detail ten generic lessons that are important for organizations; I believe these concepts can also be applied to personal everyday life.

Here they are in short bullet point form.

Generic Lessons:

  1. Too much belief in previous successes
    • “Nasa’s safety culture had become reactive, complacent and dominated by unjustified optimism”, in reference to NASA’s Columbia disaster
    • The Titanic did not have enough lifeboats on board for all passengers because people thought it was “unsinkable”
    • Overconfidence leads to complacency
  2. Coping with Growth
    • Recalls for Toyota were attributed to the inability to cope with the growth rate of company, a company that prided itself in the Toyota Production System, where Six Sigma was derived from
    • “In good times, resources are more available and hence more investment goes into safety measures” At a certain point, people get complacent
    • safety-resources
    • SUSTAINABLE GROWTH – Think 5, 10, 25+ years down the road.  Does this align with senior management’s vision?  Does it align with my OWN personal vision?
  3. Mis-conception of fashionable paradigms
    • Going Lean may have repercussions, including creating a more brittle supply chain thus decreasing resilience
    • Cost cutting is only one aspect of going lean, rather lean should be viewed as “adding value and streamlining processes”
    • Could we be “sacrificing safety in the name of lean?”
  4. Legislations
    • Corporations must be held responsible “as a result of serious management failures, resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care”
  5. The “I operate, You fix” Attitude
    • Most people feel that the certain departments or people are the only people who are responsible for the clean-up
    • Shift to a more “empowered” culture, one where everyone cares and goes the extra mile
    • If everyone does more dishes than they produce, we will have a clean sink!
  6. No news is good news
    • We’ve all heard the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – “wait-and-see” attitude
    • Be proactive to the best of your ability! (As long as it makes sense financially)
  7. Bad news = Bad person
    • Manager prefers to hear good news, but what they need is the TRUTH so they can make sound decisions
  8. Everyone’s own machine is the highest priority to him
    • Set priorities- “attract the highest priority among different approaches to dealing with any potential disasters”
  9. Solving a crisis is a forgotten experience
    • Old paradigm- People want to forget bad experiences, so they don’t keep any record of it
    • However, lessons Learned can be HUGE!!!
  10. Skill levels dilemma
    • In order to effectively solve a crisis, a “synchronised, multidisciplinary team” (cross-functional team) should be assembled
    • Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie called this the “Mastermind Principle”




Azadegan, Arash Dr. “Supply Chain Risk & Disruption Management.” Week 1-4, Lectures and Slides. Lecture.

Hill, Napoleon. Think and Grow Rich. No. Hollywood, CA: Melvin Powers, Wilshire Book, 1966. Print.

Labib, Ashraf, and Martin Read. “Not Just Rearranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic: Learning from Failures through Risk and Reliability Analysis.” Safety Science 51.1 (2013): 397-413.