I've been watching, reading, and listening to the Katrina coverage over the past week. And the one thing that stands out for me is my perception that there was a lack of disaster planning.
I'm not going to play the blame game–there's plenty to go around. But here are the questions I would have assumed the managers in charge of planning would have asked:
- What's likely occurrence? After a hurricane, we can plan on no electricity, which means impaired communications, no air conditioning, people needing to use generators, and at some point, a lack of water. How long is this likely occurrence going to happen?
- What's an unlikely, but not out-of-the-realm-of-possibility occurrence? This is where I'd assume the electricity would be out for several days, maybe a week. Remember, all of our systems need electricity to continue to run.
- What would be a disastrous occurrence? This is the flooding scenario, where pumping out the water is impossible until after the levees are fixed.
The value a manager brings to a project or to an organization is planning the work and preparing for risks. Risk management is not a one-time planning event, but starts with planning (risk discovery) and continues as the project and/or the organization continues.
The one conclusion I'm drawing is that too few people performed risk discovery and developed mitigation plans. Don't let that happen to your project or organization. You don't have to be paralyzed by risks, but the more aware you are of the potential risks and the more you plan for dealing with those risks, the better off your project or organization will be.