were is baton droppedIn relay races, if the baton is dropped, it is almost always dropped at the handoff. If a relay race is a business or organizational system, the handoff is the weak point. Every system, every process has its inevitable weak points. If you understand people, if you’ve studied system theory, if you have an inkling of how they interact, you can get pretty good at predicting the weak spots, the likely failure point.

An easy example: A while back, a minor scandal erupted in Iraq in reference to tape recordings of soldiers’ risqué phone conversations with their spouses and significant others back in the States. The tapes were made by a military intelligence outfit whose job it was to monitor conversations of foreign nationals ONLY, since monitoring phone conversations from the States was considered illegal (this is before we learned Big Brother NSA was monitoring everyone). If they intercepted a conversation from the States, they were supposed to immediately cease monitoring. Right. Honor system with no safeguards or checks.

In essence, the general in charge said he was shocked, just shocked, and disappointed that anyone would listen in on private conversations, much less record and pass around for amusement and titillation. I’m sure the general was busy running the war and was simply saying the things one has to say in such situations. However, to anyone who has had any experience in these matters and an understanding of human nature this is a predictable failure point.

The point is that every system, every process has weak points, critical spots where failure is likely. Failure is rarely truly random. The good manager understands human nature and organizations, studies systems and process, and does his or her best to predict and prevent (or backstop) failures.

Closing quotes:

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”  — Bill Gates; 1955–

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” —Napoleon Hill; 1883–1970, “Think and Grow Rich,” published in 1937

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.”  — Confucius; BC 551–479