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With attention to small, undesirable events, big events may be made to run!

Random events and our response

Some thoughts on random, undesirable events



When we think about an event, two states are possible;

  • – either this event occurs
  • – or this event does not occur.

It may occur at random or regularly.

The event may be two types, good or bad, desirable or undesirable.

An event may be small or big.


Undesirable random events

When the event does not occur we can generate certain data about the event namely,

  • – probability of occurrence (based on an assessment of prevailing conditions)
  • – consequences ( an expectation based on experience and the prevailing conditions)

The above data would guide us in planning preventive action.


When the event occurs, there would be a set of data.

  • – who, that is, details about the persons involved
  • – where, that is, details about the location
  • – when, that is, details about time and timing
  • – why, that is, the cause for the event
  • – how, that is, about the way it happened
  • – what, that is, a term to describe the event, an abstraction so to say


A random, undesirable event draws the attention of many.

Hence the organization may choose to address it collectively in such a way

as to gain advantage from it.

That is the point of view.



Where as data for ‘who’ and ‘where’ provides Physical (P) details,

‘when’ provides data for Time (T), data for ‘why’ and ‘how’ provides descriptions,

and ‘what’ provides details at certain level of Abstraction (A).


For example:  Some one would say ‘he is also asking for money for passing the bill’

                     Some one would say ‘corruption is high in this place’

Both are true, but differ in their level of abstraction.


Another example: Some one would say ‘he fell and broke his leg’

                          Some one else would say ‘there was an accident’

                          Yet another would say ‘the people are not safety conscious’


In a sense it appears that any event may be said to comprise of P, A and T!

May be we can see it as akin to X, Y and Z axis for T, P and A.

We may even equate P*T as Zone of Influence (ZoI)


P.A.T or T. A. P!

Whereas regarding the data on P and T no change may be possible, i

t is the Abstraction that may be made in different versions.

By this it is not meant corrupting the data but that the way persons describe

from their stand point itself would be different.


Abstraction becomes an important item because certain level of abstraction

would help certain level of responsive actions.


The proposition

The proposal is that those who make abstractions based on an event,

may well make it appropriate to their zone of influence so as to make the abstraction

useful and actionable.

This is proposed with a view to systematically move to higher zone of influence,

not as a restricting proposition.

With systematic practice, whether one has position or not,

one’s zone of influence would become larger.

This is the reason for the proposition.


What is one’s zone of influence?

In an organization, each person has a different zone of influence – the time and geographical spread (T and P).

– A ‘helping hand’ has the time taken by the task and the place of work as the ZoI;

– for an operator, it is the shift of 8 hours and the machine allotted for work;

– for the supervisor, it is the shift, the number of persons assigned  and their area of work;

– for a shift-in-charge, it would be the machines and persons working in the shift;

– a manager’s ZoI would be the day covering the three shifts and the section.


In the similar way we can visualize the zone of influence of a general manager, a director, a CEO and a Chairman.


The higher one’s position, larger would be their zone of influence.

Hence the responsibility for the level of abstraction to be made and

the type of action to be initiated is expected to align accordingly.

Sometimes we may find a mismatch – high on abstraction and low on action.

A realization of the mismatch too is considered important because

only then a matching action may be planned subsequently.


What kind of action is envisaged with respect to such an event?

  1. Correction – for recovery from the effects
  2. Corrective action – for eliminating the possibility of the event recurring
  3. Status quo – ignoring the event and proceeding with activities as usual


If correction or corrective action is not correct, the event would recur.

If status quo is maintained, one would be functioning under risk.


Different fields of work

Events may occur in different fields of work. It may be related to quality,

it may be related to pollution control, it may be related to safety, and

it may be related to integrity, environment, social responsibility, projects

and any other topic as relevant to an organization.


Major events

Exxon Valdez leak is an example of a major undesirable event.

The analysis of this event culminated in the CERES Principles to guide the industry.


Suggestion for adopting such Principles, hence, may not be for wearing a halo,

but to be in the know of the undesirable event in the past and be intelligible

to avail the wisdom of those who have faced the situation at their time

and carved a solution to avoid such event from recurring in our time.


Recognize small events!

The events may also be small.

In safety management, for instance, even an incident is not supposed to be ignored.

The incidents, the ‘near misses’, are those where the consequence is not significant.

An accident is one whose consequence is significant.

Organizations take up wisely to address the incidents and avoid a likely future accident.

May be we have to adopt such an approach in every field.


IT enabled management systems and ever vigilant people would be able

to capture any number of small undesirable events and nip the effect

of such events in the bud itself and prevent a big event overtaking them.           


Let us pay attention to small events! Sounds like a New Year Resolution?!



Sam Anbazhagan

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