How to avoid “boiling point”

Authored by Jean-Patrick Ascenci, Head of Casewise Canada

Sometimes it can be quite difficult to explain the work that companies like Casewise undertake on a daily basis. But every so often, a real life example comes to light which demonstrates the very importance of having sufficient processes and mapping firmly rooted within an organisation.

Making the news recently was the Montreal water crisis, in which a water treatment plant in Atwater started to distribute discoloured water to thousands of Montrealers – and resulted in the largest boil-water advisory the city has ever experienced, a 36 hour ordeal that affected upwards of 1.3 million residents.

Of course, in life, mistakes happen. What is important is not just how you deal with them, but also how effective the preventative measures are that support a company in the event of an emergency or crisis. Throughout the 36 hour advisory, the Department of Water repeatedly referred to the “sequence” of events that had occurred. But with widespread panic, a mix of information delivered to residents and poor communication on the behalf of officials – one has to wonder how robust that sequence really was.

As Montrealers across the Canada reached “boiling” point, our analysts got to thinking about how this situation could have been dealt with if it had been left in the hands of a company like Casewise. A series of questions arose:

o Had Atwater conducted a detailed analysis of the impact of such a crisis beforehand?
o Is there a continuity plan in place which was not delivered to the citizens of Montreal?
o From a general point of view, do they have a map of their processes?

From an organisational perspective, the situation was handled disastrously – which can, in part, be attributed to a lack of foresight, planning and visibility within the organisation. For example, what was the trigger for the boil-water alert, and why did it reach different people at different times? Why was it then extended further afield? Were they unaware of the mapping of the water delivery system and therefore the scale of the issue – and most importantly, why was this overlooked?

Essentially, a structured and well-maintained process which looked at the outcomes before, during and after such a crisis would have made the entire crisis less so – and would have allowed those affected to sit down with a well-deserved (and safe) cup of coffee as soon as the problem was fixed.

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One Response to “How to avoid “boiling point””

  1. Mistakes do happen in real life too. Preventive measures are required to lessen the crisis faced by the company. Nice post!

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