Don’t “Just Do It” - Do It Right The First Time
January 3, 2024
Catalytic Serendipity Vs. Compounded Gotchas And The Law Of Unanticipated Consequential Effects
Catalytic: Refers to an agent or condition that increases the rate of another action or reaction without the agent, itself, being affected.
Serendipity: The condition of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
Catalytic Serendipity: A condition that increases the rate or probability of unexpected pleasant outcomes or events.
Compounded: To accrue interest; to add or accumulate.
Gotchas: Definition from “golf” – an unpleasant event or consequence.
Compounded Gotchas: The condition of added or accumulated unpleasant outcomes or events.
Consequential Effects: Events or occurrences that are derived in some unexpected way from preceding acts or events.
In this world, there are two ways to do things: the RIGHT way and the WRONG way.
According to some law of nature, when something is done the RIGHT way, it seems that several unanticipated and unintentional benefits are often derived from this same act.
For example, you take the time to validate the database and provide links to a very large set of laboratory data, much of which has not been requested but you feel the need to be more thorough and complete. Then, several months later, a crisis arises and your boss needs information that normally is not available without a considerable amount of effort and delay.
Coincidently (or is it?), the data linkages that you created beforehand now provide you with the exact mechanism to easily access the required data. You extract the data in just a few minutes and present it to your incredulous (and very grateful) boss. You are a HERO!
This is the antithetical corollary to Murphy’s Law (if things can go wrong, they will). It states, “If you do something right and well you will find/experience unanticipated beneficial events” (or if things are done right, they will prevent unexpected wrongs). Therefore doing something right and well the first time often does lead to a state of catalytic serendipity.
However, if something is done in an uncaring, incomplete, or slipshod way, it almost always will undoubtedly be afflicted with a case of “compounded gotchas.”
Here’s a case to highlight my point: The incomplete testing of backup and recovery and the delay in writing the backup/recovery procedures.
This is, indeed, a sad tale. The testing of the backup and recovery process was given short attention. After all, no one expects the laboratory information system (LIS) to fail. Only a few major points of failure were tested and documentation of the procedures for recovery was ultimately deferred relative to more “important” issues.
Needless to say, at a critical period and during peak workload times the LIS system crashed. No one knew how to recover the data or properly restart the LIS system. Further, several, new major outreach clients, comprising almost 70 percent of projected outreach revenues, were using the laboratory information system. These clients subsequently took their business elsewhere. And, if that was not enough, lawsuits were filed against the laboratory on behalf of these and other clients.
No one anticipated the immensity of the “fallout” and the impact of a seemingly minor oversight. Luckily, this scenario is a fabrication (at least I think that it is!), although it could have happened as a result of the Law of Unanticipated Consequential Effects.
Do it right!
Mr. Winsten (MS, FHIMSS, FCLMA) is president of Dennis Winsten & Associates., an independent healthcare information systems consulting firm with headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. He has over 40 years of computer experience including over 30 years in healthcare systems.