A Near Miss is Not a Success

A Near Miss is Not a Success

Luck and quick thinking are great in all aspects of life, but they aren’t business recovery strategies or risk mitigations. They aren’t always there when needed to avoid a serious disruption or emergency. A near miss event should be treated very seriously, not as a success, and as a warning to bolster training, revise business recovery plans and implement additional risk mitigations.

A near miss is any adverse event that almost happened or happened but didn’t result in serious consequences. Examples of near misses are, well, near infinite, but here are a few examples:

  • A company laptop is left in a public place but retrieved before personally identifiable information is accessed.
  • A disgruntled ex-employee is stopped by police for a broken taillight and arrested for having unregistered weapons in the trunk.
  • At end of shift, a boiler technician finds a faulty pressure valve in an industrial boiler, avoiding a boiler explosion.

How should organizations react to a near miss event to improve the odds it won’t happen again?

Immediately after the near miss, convene the recovery team to conduct an after-action review. It may be useful to have a knowledgeable and impartial outsider facilitate some or all the steps below, in order.

  • Stop any activity that would have otherwise been impacted –This is imperative until all the facts are known.
  • Gather the facts – Don’t rely only on initial reports of what happened and resulting impacts. Gather your recovery team and appropriate subject matter experts to learn the complete picture. This includes painting a clear picture of what could have been the worst-case result. That picture may not be what you saw when the near miss occurred.
  • Identify the root causes – Although people may be the root cause or significant contributing factor for many near misses, that’s not always true. Keep an open mind and look for causes and contributing factors without pointing fingers or laying blame.
  • Identify preventive measures and mitigations – Corrective actions and mitigations, and their respective objectives should be specific and clear. Collaborate to identify how to avoid unintended consequences.
  • Agree on a timeline and accountability for implementation– The risk for a similar event should be an important factor in determining a timeline. As with any initiative or project, establish clear objectives, the budget, steps to implement the preventive actions and mitigations, checkpoints, responsible individuals or teams, and performance measures.
  • Verify completion – Completing corrective actions and mitigations can easily fall by the wayside in the days and weeks after a near miss occurred, especially if it occurred in the wake of an actual disruption or emergency.

Of course, a near miss event is preferrable to a disruption or emergency. And taking seriously one near miss won’t prevent others. However, the prudent organization will take each near miss very seriously and learn from it to prevent another like it.

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