Martin worked in the Foreign Service for fifteen years. He had come a long way. Promotions came as quickly as the system allowed. When he was stationed in a Southeast Asian metropolis, five high-ranking ministry officials announced their visit for the next few months. Numerous meetings and social events were planned for the occasion, and Martin suggested that the visitors have lunch at his home.
Martin's house was located near the city center on an idyllic, quiet canal. Although the canal was lined with palm trees and huge bougainvillea trees, it was not far from the landing stage of the largest and busiest city canal. Martin suggested that visitors go there on a charter boat, visit the business center from the water, and moor in front of his house after a ten-minute drive. After lunch, the gentlemen could then be driven to the meeting planned for the afternoon.
Planned in detail - and yet everything turned out differently
Martin's boss thought this was a great idea and asked him to arrange everything. He planned the visit down to the smallest detail. The preparations included renting a motorboat for ten passengers - the five visitors, Martin, three of his colleagues and the driver. The boat was in good condition and the driver was experienced. What could go wrong? Every day the boat carried ten passengers up and down the canal. Unfortunately, they were much smaller than the officials of the Western Ministry who climbed into the boat to be taken for lunch. Only 50 meters from the pier it was clear that the boat would capsize. Everyone could swim, although they had never tried it in a designer suit and in such polluted water. The swimmers set course for the next jetty and were pulled ashore by the lunch guests of a noodle kitchen. Their success was followed with cheers.
The crowd of curious people grew as the guests of the noodle kitchen hosed down the servants with a hose of water. And everyone waved as three cabs drove the group to Martin's house. There they took a shower and treated themselves to some of Martin's clothes while waiting for their own. No one had much of an appetite.
What are the odds?
Martin's career did not go downhill because of this incident. He admitted: "The week after was terrible. I wanted to go back to the pier, tie a boulder to my foot and jump into the water. But about a month later, everyone laughed about it, except my boss. I had thought of everything but what would happen if the boat capsized." An end, as it would not happen everywhere. How great could the probability be that something like that would happen?
As in most cases, it was a good plan that was considered good by all sides. At first glance everything was already considered and so the plan was approved and implemented. A backward view did not take place. What was the point? If one had done so and considered what would probably have been the worst result in the implementation of this plan (PreMortem Analysis), and if several employees had also been involved (use of already existing knowledge), the plan and the decision to implement it would have been put on a much broader basis.
Demand is worthwhile
One might have brought someone to the table who also likes to go boating in his spare time, so he wouldn't necessarily be perceived as an expert (Liberating Structures/Everyone is heard). Nevertheless, he would have brought up the fact that the local boats are operated with the planned number of people, but the total weight is decisive for a safe transport. It could also have been concluded that the Western officials are much larger and heavier than the local people. In conclusion, it could have been determined that the planned boat was not designed for the expected total weight and would therefore most likely sink.