Search My Blog and Linked Pages!

Black Swans and Rogue Antelopes

(This video clip has spot of bad language. Watch your play-back volume).

News Flash: Just because something is implausible, that doesn't make it impossible.

Would you buy that out in the middle of a wide open savannah this lone antelope, bounding across hundreds of square miles of grass, decided to alter his pace and intentionally knock this man off his bike? While moving at full speed?

Most likely… no. You’re not going to believe it.

This extends to most of our systems, including business and the law. Our systems don’t like the implausible or the unexpected. In fact they are often designed to assume the expected has happened, even when it hasn’t.

This differs from a ‘Black Swan’ event. In Black Swan theory, it is assumed that something incredibly rare has happened. Exactly what has happened is fairly clear and believable... once it actually happens.

In our new case, there is a question of believability after-the-fact. So let’s give this a new name. Let’s call it a ‘Rogue Antelope’ event. ‘Rogue Antelopes’ are simply not planned for, not measured for, and are hotly disputed once they do happen.

Mature business efforts are in more of a ‘maintenance mode.’ In such projects, unusual things don’t often happen. If they do, there should be a well-developed set of metrics, measures and monitors that either capture a Rogue Antelope event or indirectly confirm it.

So. Why does this matter?

You need to believe a Rogue Antelope struck and have it relayed with enough fidelity that whatever you do to recover from it, you’re doing the RIGHT thing. More importantly, you need to understand this was a fluke, rather than suddenly diverting effort to protect against the repeat of a one-in-a-billion event.

You cannot spend all your time dreaming up every scenario and planning ahead for Rogue Antelopes. If you try, you’ll simply build an expensive, hopelessly complicated mess.

What you can do is: identify the environments or stages of a project where you might see a Rogue Antelope. Then, put a couple of your best people on those projects, at those times, in those environments. By ‘best people’, we mean people who:

  * Have a proven track record and have little motive to invent an antelope.
  * Are familiar enough with the context that when the antelope pops up, they will recognize it.
  * Can speak the language of your discipline well enough to accurately describe the antelope.
  * Are briefed that risk and inefficiency are ok to bake into some projects; this is such a project.

It isn’t important to predict the implausible during new ventures. However, it is important to put trustworthy people on point who can tell the difference between the implausible and a silly mistake.

No comments:

Post a Comment