By Michael Barna, Kepner-Tregoe

Thousands of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) boxing fans paid as much as $100 to watch the highly-anticipated match between Mayweather and McGregor that took place in Las Vegas on August 26th.  This event was the center of many peoples’ Saturday night plans, giving an occasion to invite friends and family to gather and watch the “Big Fight”. 

However, less than two hours before the main event was expected to go on, fans around the globe were faced with blank screens as an unpredicted crash of the UFC.TV server threatened to prevent streaming the live event.  Later reports would point to high demand as the culprit, and the backup action was to delay the start of the main event while awaiting service restoration. 

Before the main event began, viewers were prompted to follow a link to an alternative service provider that would enable streaming.  While users were still able to view the main event, the impact of the satellite disruption prevented the viewing of the fights building up to the main event.  Those other fights were still part of the $100 package fans had paid for.  How can such a catastrophe be possible for an event as momentous as this and for an organization as big as the UFC? 

Murphy’s Law states that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” and, unfortunately, this adage tends to come true far more often than anyone would like.  When it comes to managing risks, taking the mindset of “this won’t happen to me” or “there’s no chance that will happen” is generally a poor attitude, as is the assumption that everything will always go perfectly as planned on paper.  Indeed, when it comes to successfully accomplishing any planned action, the saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can go a very long way. 

Of course, this begs the question… 

· How often do you or others with whom you work set aside time to identify potential problems around the planned actions that you take? 

· What percentage of the time are you or others taking actions to prevent the likely causes of potential problems happening? 

· How equipped are you or others to take mitigating actions when potential problems still occur? 

If you answered “not often” or “not really” to any of the above, think about this:  What would be the impact to the actions you take of not thoughtfully considering any of the above?

Prior to taking any sort of planned action, be it installing new equipment, rolling out some new change or policy, updating a server or application, hiring a new employee or vendor, simply performing routine maintenance, or “airing the main event”, it greatly behooves suppliers of services (i.e. the ones taking the actions for others) to have an idea of what potential problems could happen before things get underway.  It makes sense for service providers to begin their analysis with a consideration of the high-level types of problems that would affect customer happiness the most.  By doing this, the service providers benefit by having a plan of actions that will reduce the probability of potential problems occurring and damaging their customers’ experience, (and their reputation). Customers benefit because everything they expected and have paid for is delivered as promised. 

Fundamentally, the goal of a perfect risk management plan is to ensure that the customer feels absolutely no impact should something still go sideways.  Consider, if something bad happens and the customer never knows about it, is it truly a “problem”? 

We can ensure customer happiness by taking a simple five step approach that should not take longer than 15-30 minutes if the right resources are invited into the room.  For any planned action about to be taken, briefly complete the following:

1. Identify potential problems that could occur (i.e. what could go wrong?)

2. Anticipate likely causes of those potential problems

3. Prepare actions to prevent or block those likely causes from resulting in the larger potential problem

4. Prepare actions to mitigate damage to stakeholders and recover quickly if potential problems still occur

5. Identify ways to monitor for potential problems to know promptly if/when they are happening

The takeaway from the above is twofold: 

1: A few preventive actions to address likely causes of potential problems from creating a greater problem.

2: Have contingency actions in place to recover any damage created by problems if they occur. 

These actions should then be delegated to appointed resources to be completed within agreed time frames.

In theory, the root cause of every problem is that something happened that was not planned for.  When planning anything decisions are made because stakeholders have a felt need that the environment needs to change, either for themselves or for others.  Therefore, if every decision is made with the intent to make conditions better than they are right now, why not take some time to make sure the decision accomplishes that for all stakeholders?  The UFC made a decision to showcase the Mayweather: McGregor fight for the betterment of its fanbase and organization.  From the fans perspective, the ability to watch this epic event was all they wanted. 

Fans being able to watch said event is what the UFC should have been most focused on protecting.  How would the situation have transpired differently had UFC technical experts simply prepared something like the following in advance of the fight?

 

Potential Problem

Likely Cause

Preventive Action

Contingent Action

Trigger

Fans can’t stream main event

Server crashes because of too many users logging in

Enable backup servers to help split traffic

Immediately route all traffic to an alternative provider

 

Refund customer tickets

Help desk receives complaints that streaming is disrupted

 

It doesn’t cost much to do a little proactive brainstorming before moving forward with a plan.  Yet it can become very expensive when things go wrong and organizations must fight fires because customers are feeling pain. 

Perhaps the UFC will benefit from what happened as a lesson learned for future events and that’s a good thing.  However, there is a lot to be gained from simply visualizing the negative early on and doing whatever possible to stop Murphy from ruining the party. Learn how Kepner-Tregoe can help you with mitigating risk, problem management, and root cause analysis training here

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