As people often think too positively about their own plans, these plans may fail due to unforeseen issues. There are also a number of cognitive biases related to planning: normalcy bias, optimism bias, and planning fallacy. But I can add even more, because almost every bias can influence people’s decision making. Fortunately people invented a number of methods to make better plans.
One of these methods consists of imagining what can go wrong before making any decision or acting on a plan. You should imagine what can postpone your plan and what can totally destroy it. When you have a list of possible obstacles and issues, you can make a better risk estimation and develop countermeasures.
Better risk estimations can be useful, for example, if you still need to make a decision. New risks can change the utility of different options, and as a result you may need to make another choice. Countermeasures can help you to prepare in advance to prevent failures from happening or mitigate consequences if you can’t prevent something adverse. Also countermeasures count as project costs, which would change the project’s total utility, so you may need to reevaluate your decision.
Looking for failure modes can help you if you want to make an important decision or if you need to make complex plans. A decision-making would also lead to planning, before and after the decision itself. This method can be considered a form of risk analysis, but it may introduce a subtle shift. A regular risk analysis or a risk assessment can be formulated as a process of looking for events, which may negatively impact plans and decisions.
Failure mode analysis starts with the idea that a plan has failed. Now we need to find reasons why it has failed. Finally we will return to the same risks, but this point of view can be very beneficial, because it provides a novel perspective and helps to avoid a number of cognitive biases.
Failure modes and other tools for decision making: