Getting Lost: Process Risks and Controls

Pétanque International

A couple of days ago my car was being repaired and I asked my sister to pick me up from work. I drew a map with accurate road names, preferred lanes to be in at specific times, speed limits and just about every landmark that would aid her in finding my place of work. She has been there a number of times before so I didn’t foresee any problems… but problems were what we got!

What was supposed to be a 30 minute drive ended up being a 2 hour “ask-strangers-for-directions; phone-a-friend” never to repeat again adventure!

When she finally found the X on the map the first thing she said to me was “Your Stupid Map! (remember, she is young…) You only included the ‘right’ roads and none of the close by ‘wrong’ roads, so when I took a wrong turn I was completely in the dark.” Then it hit me! I was so focused on the ideal way of getting to ‘X marks the spot’ that I completely forgot that the real world cannot possibly be accurately reflected on paper.

This made me think about how we define business processes. Defining current or future processes doesn’t end when you have the ideal way of doing things. Once you have the ideal process you must take into consideration that things go wrong. This is when you start identifying your risks in the process. But identifying risks is not enough. You must also define your mitigating actions and responses to those risks. When an event occurs that you have prepared for it is much easier (and less stressful) to get back on track.

If my sister and I took a little bit more time to think about what could go wrong, I’m sure she would not have ended up on Table Mountain when she only needed to pick me up at the V&A Waterfront.

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