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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Managing for Murphy, Satan, and Yourself -- OK gang. I suppose that's what I get for sharing that big pretty picture the other day. I got so caught up in discussing the metaphor of the medium, I almost missed the message. This week Murphy's Law comes in the guise of someone named Isabel. As a result, I just spent a few days at my south Jersey shore house battening down the hatches for the coming storm. Fortunately for me and my neighbors, it looks like we'll get by a lot better than those down in North Carolina. Best of luck to y'awl.

Coincidentally, this week, thanks to some wide-ranging wanderings in weblog-land, I came across an interesting piece that also fits with Hal's discussion of breakdowns. In a discussion of designing for security as well as for accidents, Bruce Schneier writes in his Crypto-Gram...
"At a time when we're worried about attacks -- by terrorists, hackers, and ordinary criminals -- it's worth spending some time talking about accidents. [...] Some years ago computer-security researcher Ross Anderson described the difference as Murphy vs. Satan. Defending against accidents, he said, means designing and engineering in a world ruled by Murphy's Law. Things go wrong because, well, because things go wrong. [...] Security is different. In addition to worrying about accidents, you also have to think about nonrandom events. Defending against attacks means engineering in a world ruled by Satan's Law. Things go wrong because there is a malicious and intelligent adversary trying to force things to go wrong, at the very worst time, with the very worst results." (via Universal Rule)
Murphy and Satan are two very real sources of breakdowns, but there is a third. It's you...

You've fixed something in the past, but conditions have changed, and you didn't adjust your fixes.

You feel caught between a rock and a hard place and either compromise, creating threats from both sides, or attack the hard place, only to have the rock roll on over you.

You recognize a risk, but fail to do anything about it, hoping that if you ignore it, it will go away.

You continue to do the same things that got you into trouble before, hoping that you'll get different results this time.

You've done something very worthwhile to address a hot problem, but failed to think about possible side effects.

You storm down the hill to inevitable success, but fail to consider what could go wrong if you actually succeed...or succeed beyond your wildest dreams...into a nightmare.

You feel compelled to provide an answer and, with false bravado, take a (hip)shot at one, only to think about why it was wrong...way wrong...so wrong you're ashamed to face up to it...after everyone starts taking actions on your answer.

Do any of these sound familiar? I know some sound familiar to me. Whether you call them foot-shootings or iatrogenic reactions (I love that word), it's not really effective to blame poor Murphy or Satan. It may make you feel better to think that the undesirable outcomes were inevitable or that someone was out to get you, but if there were things that you could/should have done and didn't, you miss a great opportunity to learn...and to avoid making the same mistake again later.

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