Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's a BRisk Wind That Blows No Good

OK, I admit it. I can't resist this "I told you so" moment:
  1. BRisk Management
  2. When BRisk Goes Bust
But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. In fact, I'd much prefer it had not happened. In case you missed what I'm talking about, a 5000 lb chunk of the San Francisco Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate) fell onto the upper deck last night. Several drivers narrowly avoided potentially fatal injuries as pieces fell onto their vehicles. That's 2 tons or 2268 kg of falling steel, folks!

San Francisco Bay Bridge closure parts on deck
Click for video at KTVU Channel 2

Apparently, it was from the same cracked steel "I-bar" (a hinged strut shaped like the link in a bicycle chain) that delayed traffic flow while it was repaired less than 2 months ago. This failure was supposedly due to vibration from the high winds that prevailed yesterday, not an earthquake. No comment on the quality of the steel.

The notion behind the original adage is that when bad things happen, there can also be some positive results. What are they in this case? I see it as a warning. Of course, few people paid attention to similar omens that preceded the global financial collapse.

This was the old bridge, but inspections of steel on the new Bay Bridge were briskly reviewed in a race to beat the next possible quake. As I said in "Let the Bridge Fall—As Long as It Falls on Time", we can interpret that managment position as:
...let's increase the risk that the NEW bridge will fail (by being brisk about welding inspections), in order to beat the much lower risk that the OLD bridge might fail in a quake.
It was winds this time, not a quake. And like the Loma Prieta quake, it was only a piece that fell down, not the whole bridge coming down. So, the risk that the old bridge might catastrophically fail, remains low. In other words, there is no real race—just a management figment of risk, i.e., bRisk management. Conversely, you could say that the old bridge has now failed again, and therefore the supposed race has already been lost. So, what's the rush now? Neither assessment of the real risk makes any sense.

The really embarrassing thing is that these steel I-beams were repaired and supposedly inspected, just recently. Were shortcuts still taken there also, in order to get commute traffic flowing again on the old bridge? Caltrans claims it was not rushed or less cautious just because the old bridge will eventually be removed. If it was rushed, however, that doesn't bode well for the quality of inspections on the new Bay Bridge, which is already behind schedule and over budget.

I'll have more to say about the impact of bRisk management on IT processes in my upcoming Guerrilla Capacity Planning class.

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