Every element of your business works together like the cogs of a well-oiled machine. But what happens if one component becomes unstable or fails? Will the whole house of cards come crashing down?
Preparing one’s business to work around system failures while repairing them rapidly, or even preventing failure at the first sign of trouble, is one of the things every business must plan for.
Food for thought? Here’s an introduction to help you build on that.
Incident management to prevent major failures.
When systems fail in a small way, it could be a system of much larger problems looming. Incident management is a process that works to spot, study, and solve “incidents” before they can lead to major issues for the functioning of the organisation. While services are being restored, incident management strives to reduce any impact on the organisation or the quality of its outputs. It’s implemented through a workflow that begins when an incident is logged and ends when it is resolved. The best way to do this is to plan the workflow, and automate it for rapid alerts to relevant departments and prompt action by their staff.
A 4-step process for rapid problem solving.
Rapid problem solving requires prompt and purposeful action. The 4-Step problem-solving process helps you to plan your incident management workflows. The first step is to define a problem and investigate it thoroughly. Next, comes a brainstorming session that identities possible causes of the problem. Now, skilled people perform a root cause analysis. It’s not just a temporary “patch,” but an attempt to get down to the real reasons why a problem occurred and address it in such a way that the same problem won’t recur.
Root cause analysis is an important element of 6-Sigma methodology. It’s a proven and highly-regarded approach to improvement that searches for flaws and aims to eliminate them. It’s quite a complex field, and your organisation could benefit by sending key staff for training in its methods. By implementing the 6-Sigma approach, your organisation is constantly working to eliminate possible causes of incidents before they can become serious problems. Does risk management fall under the 6-Sigma umbrella? It certainly does.
Have contingency plans.
While identifying root causes is certainly the best way to address problems in the longer term, you don’t want work to grind to a halt while the problem-solving process is ongoing. Preventing this means planning “quick fix” stop-gaps that can be implemented while vital systems await repair.
One may, for example, temporarily revert to using an older system that, while not as efficient as the newer one, still gets the job done. Consider the systems that your business relies on most and identify contingency plans that will minimise the impact of system failures. These are only temporary solutions and solving the real problem that led to your resorting to the contingency plan remains an urgent priority.
Get everyone on board.
Any organisation is a team effort, and identifying and solving problems should be a team effort too. Every employee should know how to report any anomalies they spot, and they should be encouraged to do so. We may not like problems, but ignoring or blaming the messenger isn’t the best way to motivate staff to help with incident reporting and prevention. Workers, supervisors, line managers, and top management should all be invested in keeping things ticking over nicely – and acting when they spot signs of trouble.