But then my broker reminded me that I should do everything possible to get the coverage because it is "a known truth that, if anything was to go wrong, it would happen during my coverage gap. That's Murphy's Law."
The second event I found myself in was a rush to leave the office while desperately needing to print an important document before I left. At that moment, the printer stopped working. The office manager in an attempt to console me said: "This is so typical. It is so Murphy's Law."
The third event was my car needing a wash. I asked a colleague the location of the nearest car wash. Coupled with directions, was the comment: "Good thing you're getting your car washed. We need the rain. It's Murphy's Law."
Who is this Murphy fellow hanging about me as of late? And precisely what is Murphy's Law?
With a bit of digging, I found that there is no definitive agreement as to who Murphy was and that Murphy's Law has a few renditions. The most commonly expressed version reads as: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
All of my recent problems, failures, and even pending annoyances were attributed to Murphy's Law ? and with such certainty too. It reads as though, if something bad is out there, it will find you no matter what you do.
This statement should be a risk manager's worst nightmare. With that view, all that's left is to toss up our hands in the air and just let things happen. Murphy's Law must be the ultimate truth; a law that rules the outcome of all things in the universe. If true, we risk managers, might as well pack up and ship off.
I will confess there are moments when I feel that Murphy may have been on to something. Sometimes it seems like there is no benevolent, ordering force in the universe.
Why does it seem that the probability of running in to someone you know increases drastically when you step out of the house with bad clothes and hair, and no makeup? Why is it that as soon as you put on a white crisp outfit you instantly become the target for a nasty new stain? And why are the odds of spilling a glass of red wine directly correlated to the newness and cost of your carpet?
If not Murphy, who is creating the havoc? Is it a cosmic conspiracy or our selective memories?
Regardless of the answer, many technical and engineering endeavors exploit Murphy's Law. They do believe that, given the chance, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Engineers use meticulous testing methods called "defensive design" that take into account all that can go wrong, before completing design work on a product.
In addition to testing, they ensure things can't be assembled incorrectly. Designers use different shapes, sizes or even colors to help prevent the risk of assembly problems. All of this is known as "Murphy-proofing."
The risk management community goes about things in much the same way. Through continual assessments and control, we try to Murphy-proof our organizations. Nonetheless we know that we can never understand all threats that come our way. Crediting Murphy for our unexplained haplessness may be just what we need.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is an internationally recognized enterprise risk management executive with experience in energy, health care, and most recently in the sporting event sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 15, 2012
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