Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

… or, “risk management 101.”

Kevin the chicken wants to cross the road. Should he?

We can define risk as (likelihood x severity) vs reward. To use a slightly more colourful metaphor, this is broadly “is the brown stuff realistically in danger of hitting the air circulation device, and how widely will it be distributed if it does?” with a goal of deciding whether it’s worth it.

Kevin considers the risk of being hit by a bus. The likelihood of this happening is fairly low, but the severity should it happen would be catastrophic. We can probably categorise this as a moderate risk. Now he considers, why does he want to cross the road? To meet his ducky friend Arthur(*) on the other side.

Having defined the risk, Kevin then considers his actions. What a clever chicken he is. He can Accept it, Avoid it, Transfer it or Mitigate it. He reasons:

1) Accept. I’ve identified a risk but I think it’s one worth taking in order to hang out with Arthur for a couple of hours and hey, maybe someone’s been feeding the ducks and there’s some leftover scran(**)

2) Avoid. You know what, sod it, buses can kill, my mate Eric(***) was squashed last week. I’ll stay on this side, maybe watch a movie instead.

3) Transfer. This is the “someone else’s problem” gambit. Why can’t Arthur come over to my side of the road for once?

4) Mitigate. Crossing the road is a risk but I can look right, look left and look right again before stepping out.

All of these are valid options whenever we evaluate risk. I have an upgrade to perform, do I think the process is tried-and-tested so the risk is minimal; do I think that it’s quite likely to go wrong and an outage will affect the entire company; do I go “hey, Specialist Engineer Dave, do this upgrade for me will you?”; do I take a full backup first and design a rollback plan? Accept, Avoid, Transfer, Mitigate.

But none of this is really the point. The point in Risk Management is that you’ve stopped and thought about it first. As my granddad would have said, “measure twice, cut once.”

(* – Arthur Mallard?)

(** – Have you ever fed ducks? I did last week. They have no concept of “leftover food,” it was like a scene from a Hitchcock movie.)

(*** – Flat Eric? No? Tough crowd.)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *