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What triggers, often doesn’t pain

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-05-2014 Sagarika Chakraborty

If newspaper articles could have an entire paragraph dedicated to acknowledgements, I would have thanked my spa therapist throughout that space. It’s not everyday that one gets rebuked on the massage table and finds its relevance in day-to-day business working as well.

It was only recently that I lay there under her nimble fingers and tried to explain to her to pay more attention to the pain points on my shoulder. In return, she rebuked me for ignoring the root of the pain (trigger point addressal) and just making do with immediate relief (pain point release).

In my day job as a risk consultant, I could fit in this rebuke in my consulting sheets on business continuity planning (BCP) for corporate houses. BCP, in layman’s terms, helps a company assess the “worst case scenarios” and be prepared with answers much before the questions pop up. However, while every established company has such a plan in place to meet all applicable norms, they often forget to consider the “trigger point” versus “pain point” analysis. As a result, when such policies are called upon for risk mitigation, at the time of crisis, the focus is more on the immediate situation at hand rather than on tracing back the steps to the root of the problem. Quite often, the root is latent (quite like those knots that you cannot feel with the naked hand!), thereby leading the company to wrongly conclude that the pain point and the trigger point are actually the same.

An irate employee, who has been involved in shop floor violence, is often noted to be the root of the problem in case of production loss at a factory on a fateful day. Tackling him is then considered to be the best option to bring the situation under control. However, what is ignored is the reason behind his outburst—whether the grievance building was latent over the years over a policy or an old issue that caused this.

This is especially pertinent in the Indian scenario, which consists of a large number of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and where a mere employee-related grievance can lead to a complete shutdown of the workplace and result in the firm counting large financial losses.

To analyse such a matter, a risk consultant would work back from such a pain point like a therapist would. In chiropractic treatment, it is said that when a sore tissue is pressed, the radial effect of the pain release leads you back to the trigger location. This is akin to what in consulting we call the tracing back of steps in gap analysis. Such a trace-back often leads us to policies or processes, which though never caused any dissatisfaction on the face of it, helped slowly build on a pressure cooker like situation that erupted in a completely different terrain.

The solution is simple—to not look for an all-encompassing one, and instead to realize that there has to be continuous monitoring through periodic review of policies for any BCP to be rendered effective.

In recent times, a few organizations have come up with what is called a plan maintenance schedule, which helps identify trigger points and make note of the same, instead of the traditional view of tackling pain points. In such a mechanism, quite often, no immediate action is taken post identification of the trigger points. Instead, a decision tree is drawn up to identify all those related areas where such a trigger might radiate into and anticipate the kind of business losses a worst case scenario may cause. A BCP manager can then take a call as to whether any change is required in the identified policy keeping the business demands in mind.

A company that subscribes to the true spirit of BCP stands by the notion that there are no “out of scope gaps” but only oversights that prevent us from identifying the trigger points that cause discomfort. A sore muscle often reacts too late and it is only after the oxygen and nutrition supply has been cut off, that the pain sets in.

In an organizational framework, such a situation might be equally damaging as it is to a human body. Time is right, thus, to trace a few steps back and understand what caused the pain, rather than rubbing over the sore spot and hoping it will go away. Rest, I feel the massage table brings out the thinking risk consultant in me and it’s time I ask my boss to sponsor the membership that the neighbourhood spa is offering!

Sagarika Chakraborty, associate director-western region, Pinkerton India.

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