Risk Ready

Preparing for the worst is your best plan

When a profound disaster occurs, such as the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan in March, it’s hard to look critically at what preventive steps might have minimized the destruction. Right now, the focus is on addressing the nuclear catastrophe and the long recovery ahead.

Yet, if we don’t examine and learn from these events, so much loss and devastation will be for naught.

With the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant now having surpassed Chernobyl in its severity, questions loom regarding the integrity of the planning and risk analysis prior to the earthquake. Could better preparation and planning have helped avert the meltdown that will now require months—or years—to contain? What can the nuclear industry, specifically, learn from these events?

One conclusion we can safely draw is that quality’s role is imperative.

"One lesson confirmed by this disaster is that quality management practitioners are not ultimately responsible for the long-term sustainability of organizations," writes R. Dan Reid in this month’s cover story, "What Have We Learned?" "What they can do is help by using proven quality tools and methods to quantify risks properly and make provisions to mitigate the risk in the design and manufacture of their organizations’ products or services."

Reid offers a thought-provoking look at how quality management practices and principles should have been used in Japan’s nuclear power risk analysis and disaster preparedness plans—and why all organizations should take the opportunity to review their plans now.

How can Baldrige criteria, ISO 9000 or other quality management systems provide the backbone for organizational sustainability? Has your organization done everything it can to shield itself from risk? What role does the quality professional play? Post your comments at www.qualityprogress.com, or write to me at editor@asq.org.

Sustainability takes on new meaning when used in the context of social responsibility (SR). In "Getting On Track," authors Dorothy Bowers and John E. "Jack" West discuss the role of quality within organizations’ SR efforts. They also provide a glance at how the SR standard, ISO 26000, gives organizations the ability to systematize their approach to SR activities. For more information on ASQ’s SR efforts, visit www.thesro.org.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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