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Unintended Consequences September 3, 2007

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Project Management.
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Every action has predictable consequences, but they also have unforeseen positive or negative consequences.  Let us review a few classic Earth examples that everyone can relate to:  bike helmet laws.  These laws actually caused accident frequency to increase as drivers presumed the cyclist was experienced and cars would drive closer to riders wearing helmets.  Another example is child-proof safety caps on drug bottles.  They actually increased children’s access to drugs because seniors would leave the caps off, as they found them too difficult to open.  Adults would also presume the child-proof caps to be so safe, that they would leave the bottles where children could get them and of course children would defeat the safety caps.

These simple examples illustrate that while an idea may seem appropriate and the consequences will be beneficial, there are unintended consequences that can occur.

In the business world, any idea can be implemented with a presumed consequence.  Care must be taken to study the actual results and be prepared to deal with it.  Unfortunately, no manager wants to champion an idea, only to admit it was a partial failure and then have to deal with the consequences.

When a project is started, the Project Plan should include post-ROI analysis so any unintended consequences can be discovered.  To be proactive, the Plan could also contain a post-rollout tweaking phase so resources and time can be set aside to address further issues.

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