NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane is a veteran of three Space Shuttle missions. His experience in high-pressure situations has given him a unique perspective on being agile while managing risk – lessons that can be applied to all industries.
Exclusive Interview Highlights:
As Astronaut Mullane points out, the only way to fully eliminate risk and ensure a zero percent chance of disaster is to simply never launch.
But because teams are operating and projects happen that’s not the way we can work. This is where mitigating risk as much as possible becomes imperative.
Effectively identifying and lessening risks is a team effort. It’s about investigating what could happen and then having the right response in place; following best practice.
It’s also key to not just investigate internally, but across your whole industry, to capitalise on all the information available.
Most importantly, keep going back, checking and re-learning what you can about your risk mitigation practices. As you learn more, or new information and data comes to light, you should be modifying how you operate to ensure a high level of safety.
The cost of asset failure may not always be measured in human lives but the consequences are still significant. Creating robust strategies to avoid predictable surprises is essential.
In asset-intensive industries, we see the normalisation of deviance all the time. For example, field operatives continuously placing themselves in physical danger due to poorly communicated or enforced safety policies. Understanding how to guard against the normalisation of deviance is critical to avoiding disaster and something that should be built into all asset management strategies.
Effective leadership should empower teams and individuals to voice their concerns and thoughts, providing perspectives that others might not see. This ensures that, collectively, the team is making the greatest use of its members to drive the desired outcomes.
Mullane explains that the night before the Challenger Disaster, engineers voiced their concerns about potential equipment failures, but the leaders they reported to weren’t receptive to these concerns. As a result, the knowledge which could have prevented the disaster didn’t reach the right people and was hindered by poor leadership.
How to apply the lessons learned to your business?
As a business, one of your most important assets is data and the flow of information throughout. Having the right risk and management processes in place means you can safeguard your data to prevent failure of systems and streamline information accuracy.
The consequences of poor data can go much further than a lost opportunity to sell something. Poor data around equipment, work environments, products or a range of other areas can have significant impacts on the health and safety of your employees, on your customers, and on your bottom line.
There are ways to ensure data can be relied upon so that decisions, big and small, are based on trusted information. This is achieved through the process of Information Governance.
Every day, organisations are making decisions, relying on data whose quality may not merit the importance placed on it. Not all of these decisions are made by people, some are made by software programs.
An airline might use revenue management software to determine the price of every seat on a given flight, or a telco might use a job scheduling and optimisation system that determines which field technician will be assigned to repair a residential telephone fault. Whether it’s a human or a machine making a decision, if the data is flawed then so will be the resulting decision.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Data quality initiatives can have significant, substantial and measurable positive impacts on a business and drive revenue or profit. Recently, a US bank told of a data quality project which looked at the data being used to make decisions on capital assets. By implementing a targeted process to improve the quality of the information held on these assets, it was able to more accurately assess each asset’s value. This enabled the bank to hold only the capital required rather than a default position and, in the process, it released billions of dollars that were previously held as contingency.
Information governance is not a project or even a schedule of work. You cannot just throw people at it. It requires a cultural shift to enable clear, concise and coordinated communication across an organisation.
A successful information governance strategy involves stakeholders from all parts of a business collaborating to achieve the collective governance goals – bringing your people, processes and technologies to a common maturity level.
- Information governance brings together people, processes and technology.
- It includes the system of decision rights, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for information-related processes that are executed according to an agreed model across an entire organisation.
- We believe a well-executed end-to-end information governance strategy and process establishes a framework to turn information into a trusted business asset.
Steps to ordered information
How many of your business decisions are currently being undermined by lack of best practice and data structure? To begin implementing an information governance strategy in your organisation, start by thinking about:
- Conducting a maturity assessment of your current information capabilities.
- Identifying realistic and achievable future state information capabilities.
- Building a pragmatic roadmap to bridge the gap.
- Developing a method map that defines governance activities within your departments.
- Bridging the gap between business and IT.
- Developing a common vocabulary and deeper understanding of your enterprise information.
- Encouraging and developing an onboarding plan.
- Using agile reflection methods to continuously develop process and procedure to reflect innovation.