Lessons from the Flood Part 1- Is Your Practice Antifragile?

Written by Tony Lembke

March 30, 2022

The recent flood in Northern New South Wales were a Black Swan event – a surprising event that has a major impact.

Unprecedented damage was caused to medical practices. One clinic was inundated completely – despite having never previously been flooded in its 50 year history. All equipment and computers were destroyed.

A Black Swan event is by definition hard to predict. Yet it may still be rational to act as though one will happen, because its effects will be extreme.

There is a tension between efficiency and robustness.

‘Lean thinking’ suggests we operate at just enough capacity with just enough resources to meet current demand.

Should we have back up equipment on hand ‘just in case’? Should everyone be working at 100%, or should we reserve some capacity for unforeseen demand?

An ‘antifragile’ organisation is resilient – it has the ability to withstand and recover from shocks, stresses, and disturbances.

The best way for an organisation to become antifragile is by building redundancy and robustness into their systems. An anti fragile practice would have redundancies in place for every critical component of their organisation so that if one component fails, it does not bring down the entire system with it.

Is your practice antifragile? How would you cope with a Black Swan event?

On Monday morning last week we discovered we couldn’t use any computers at all – we couldn’t access records or make appointments.Chaos.

It turned out that the ‘network switch’ that connects the computers in our practice had been damaged by lightening over the weekend. When disaster strikes, how much does ‘down time’ cost? What would you give for a priority contract with an IT team and a spare network switch ready to swap in?

What if

  • Your records were damaged beyond repair?
  • Some or all of your staff were isolated and could not travel to work?
  • Your buildings could not be used for days? week? months?
  • Demand for your services tripled as people from the surrounding region could not access their usual GP?
  • You suddenly had to staff an evacuation centre as well as your own practice?
  • You had no power for days?
  • You had no Internet for days?

Let’s brainstorm in the comments below. We’ll collate the answers into a ‘Antifragile Checklist’

  • Nominate a Black Swan event that might affect your practice, either one of those listed above or another of your own invention.
  • How could you prepare for it?
  • What actions could you take once it has happened?

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