Avoiding Avoidance (Part 2 of 2)

Tips for attacking risk indicators head on, instead of avoiding them (Part 2 of 2).

We’ve all had those days, the ones where we are too busy “putting out fires” to get to the things we really wanted to get done. Sometimes, stuff just happens. People have bad days, hardware breaks down, and software does unexpected things. It’s easy to write this off as “just one of those days”, and sometimes that’s all that it really is.

Other times, however, a flame means there’s a bigger fire burning somewhere just out of sight.

Last week we discussed active and passive methods of avoidance, which are both ways that risk indicators are handled without really facing or resolving the underlying problem. Often, we choose to avoid or ignore a problem because we don’t recognize it for what it is, we don’t understand what is causing it, or we don’t know how to mitigate it or resolve it when it happens.

So, how do we properly equip ourselves to handle these situations without avoidance? We do this by making sure that these 5 steps are included in our project management strategies:

  • Experience and Education. We use our experience to recognize indicators for what they are. Once we’ve seen a fire or have gone through fire prevention classes, we know that the sight and smell of smoke means that there is a fire somewhere that probably needs to be put out. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be able to spot this when it happens, so those with experience should educate those without, because nobody should have to live through a disaster to be able to spot one coming and get out of the way.
  • Early Detection. Our bodies are naturally trained to detect when things are out of the ordinary, but it doesn’t hurt to install and regularly check smoke detectors. Once you know what an indicator of an issue is, putting a plan in place to periodically monitor for those warning signs just makes good sense.
  • Source identification. Once we’ve determined that there is a fire brewing, we need to identify the source in order to handle it. It might be a harmless bonfire in our neighbor’s back yard, or our garage might be in flames. It’s helpful to be able to accurately identify the actual source of the fire, and having the right tools in place to be able to safely do that is essential.
  • Measurement and Assessment. After the source of an issue has been found, we need to be able to understand just how big a problem we’re facing. Only then can we decide whether we have the tools to handle it ourselves, or whether we need to call in some help from the big guns to protect our investments.
  • Mitigation Planning. When we know what we’re facing, we need to decide whether we can put out the fire by stepping on it, by spraying it with a fire extinguisher, or whether it’s time to run for the nearest exit and call the fire department. Planning ahead means that we’ll have a fire extinguisher handy, that our fire escape methods are known and functional, and that everyone knows the number for the fire department and what to do when they call.

In short, the key is to know what to do when you see signs of risk, and to institute policies for handling those indicators properly and face on, rather than by avoiding the real underlying problems.


Have you made a plan to address avoidance? Head over to Maple and jot down your Thoughts about each of these five steps at www.MeetMaple.com.

Originally published on October 13, 2011

Written by Scott

Scott Waletzko built Maple with his bare hands, and is the managing partner responsible for all things technical at R. Alliance.

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