The Window Of Opportunity Factor : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

When any mission critical system breaks down, there is a finite window of opportunity in which to fix the system. To use a stark example mentioned in an earlier thread, if the 'heating system' in New York City breaks down in the middle of winter, how long before telephone poles are converted to BTUs by a freezing population? At some point, fixing the problem becomes much more difficult or impossible because you just didn't have the time to do the things you would normally do to solve such problems.

Many businesses who seem to have opted for 'fix on failure' will end up being done in not by the problem itself, but by missing their window of opportunity to fix the problem. In simple terms, it does you little good if you can fix the problem in 20 days if you've lost a critical share of your customer base after 15 days.

Or to take a real (but not Y2K-related) example. The recent UPS strike drove a lot of UPS's former customers to their competition. I'm certain that one of the things the UPS execs considered was "How long of a strike can we endure before we've lost too much of our customer base to recover?". Well, they did loose some customers but they apparently settled the strike well within their window to do so.

Most of us are quite familiar with this concept and yet, we seem to have trouble applying it to Y2K-related failures.

Professional marketers deal with this issue every day. They know, for example, that it will do you little good if you can buy 30,000 Furbies today if you can't take delivery until December 26th. You've lost your window of opportunity.

For military planners, understanding the concept of 'window of oppotunity' is critical to the successful completion of an assigned task.

NASA deals with 'launch windows'.

Emergency medical technicians talk about 'the golden hour' (it is a window of opportunity for saving the critically injured.)

As important as it is to Y2K related failures and for as many folks as there are who have to deal with the concept daily, I just don't see 'window of opportunity' being factored into many of the discussions of contingency planning. It is virtually non-existant with the Y2K pollyanna crowd. And even with the folks who take Y2K seriously, it is often assumed that standard 'windows' will apply. They will not.

We have already missed our window of opportunity for a technical fix to many Y2K problems. Preparation and contingency planning on a personal, business and community level is all about maximizing that last window of opportunity.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 23, 1998



An excellent and thoughtful comment. Small businesses (such as the one I work for) seem to have trouble with the fact that when/if failures occur, everyone will be scrambling for the same resources at the same time. Your computer contractor will have 50 emergencies to deal with, and still only 3 techs (assuming telecom is working so you can call for help in the first place). How many fax/copy machines does the average office supply store keep in stock at any one time? How long to get more? How much does your business depend on them? How long can you last if 50% or more of your customers and suppliers are having similar problems? Delayed payments and bankrupt customers can put you out of business in a heartbreakingly short time.

All of this is assuming a very low level of trouble. If there are any serious infrastructure breakdowns, the situation worsens very quickly. How long until buildings are burning down from makeshift fires in January if electric and/or gas service is interupted?

Anyway, again, thanks for a thoughtful post.

-- Jon Williamson (, December 23, 1998.

Arnie: Excellent! Plus, fix-on-failure is a myth for Y2K problems anyway, since all the usual rules on looking for a single "single point of failure" will not apply.

-- Jack (, December 23, 1998.

I am doing contingency planning for my company. I started with a framework that breaks down the tasks into bit size pieces, normal PM. I will be looking at what you call "window of opportunity" in prioritizing these plans. The higher priorities will point to the areas of concern and receive our attention first. Then time and costs permitting, we'll get to the lower priorities. These priorities are based on impact to functions which include revenue, partners and customers, employees, and regulations impact. The easiest one to quantify is the impact to revenue but we have a method to include the others. Buried in the impact number is also a "time to repair", namely, the period of time without the business function. This helps to determine the impact.

I've also included a risk assessment in the priorities. I've developed a risk identification process using the PM model. We keep very good records for upper management on the progress of our Y2K projects. This risk assessment will change the priority level through the course of the project. For example, if an application doesn't make a milestone, it may increase the risk and therefore its priority. We may need to adjust the contingency plan.

The plan will contain a proactive (pre-2000) action list and a reactive (post-2000) actions. I intend to include in the proactive list a breakdown of our network so we can isolate problems if they occur 1/1/00. The proactive list will contain any increase in supplies and any processes to minimize the impact.

BTW, launch windows are based on rendez-vous parameters and can occur for several days during a certain period of the day. I have a Masters degree in Space Operations.

Troll Maria

-- Maria (, December 23, 1998.

Maria: Good response. I wish more companies' Y2K statement read like this.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 23, 1998.

# # # 19981223

Arnie, Jack, Maria: "IT'S THE PEOPLE, STUPID!!"

For all the business contingency planning I've participated, reviewed or heard of, there is the "deafening" silence on the people ( i.e., Emergency medical technicians! ). Nowhere in this thread is this most important factor mentioned.

What about the people?! The clerks, assembly-line, supervisors, managers, et al, that a required to implement all the wonderfully laid out contingency plans. Nowhere in these plans are the people contingencies addressed. It's always considered to be "outside of the box." Horse cookies! Without the contingencies for people/staff, any plan is flawed.

Assumming that these plans are viable in the "worst case scenario," can you feed them, and their family? House them, and ...? Provide security for them and, ...? ... Ad infinitum?

Risk management has never had to plan for such draconian scenarios. That's why FEMA issued their S.O.S. to all field offices for suggestions. Even _they don't have a clue as to how to construct their internal response in such a scenario. It' always been "outside the box!"

To not include the people--demonstrating by glaring omission management short-sightedness towards those that make their business possible--is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Regards, Bob Mangus # # #

-- Robert Mangus (, December 23, 1998.

Get a grip Bob. I have included employees in my plans but we're not a welfare state. We can only do so much and the people who help make the business run are paid for their services. The good ones receive bonuses and the bad ones are fired. If an employee doesn't like the way they are treated, they are free to go elsewhere. And as for you, I wouldn't pay you $150/hour even if you were the most expert programmer on earth. You're too high maintenance.

Troll Maria

-- Maria (, December 23, 1998.

Bob, "capitalism" doesn't care about people. "Systems" don't care about people. Most "contigencies" don't care about people. I would say Maria probably doesn't care about people. That is likely to prove to be the fatal flaw in the global system we've designed. If TSHTF badly, "people" are going to say "screw it" and stay home to protect their families. Well, the one's with families, anyway. -quote- "If an employee doesn't like the way they are treated, they are free to go elsewhere." I'll bet there will be a lot of this happening. And it will serve to lessen that "window of opportunity..."

-- pshannon (, December 23, 1998.

# # # 19981223


> "Get a grip Bob. I have included employees in my plans but we're > not a welfare state. We can only do so much and the people who help > make the business run are paid for their services. The good ones > receive bonuses and the bad ones are fired. If an employee doesn't > like the way they are treated, they are free to go elsewhere."

I've got a solid grip, Maria. What makes you think otherwise? Where are the flaws you perceive? ...

What would your people be "paid" _when the banking system fails? ( Anecdote: Bank item processing STOPS until the last ( US ) penney ( + or - ) is accounted for! Been there, done that! ) ... That scenario is "outside the box?" ... I'm not talking "welfare state," Maria. I talking about _whatever it takes_ to keep people at their "station"--survival. It's hard to perform under duress for the well- being of self, and loved ones. ... "Outside the box?"

Your assumptions ( i.e., banks/finance will be functional ) are without premise. There's not one bank compliant--including externals. No end-to-end testing has EVER BEEN CONDUCTED, ANYWHERE! End-to-end testing is an impossible scenario, due to limitations on "real-time" utilities. ( They can't, won't roll their systems forward for it. ) You have demonstrated limitations for thinking "outside the box." ... Maria: You're fired! For only "inside the box" thinking.

> "And as for you, I wouldn't pay you $150/hour even if you were > the most expert programmer on earth. You're too high maintenance. > > Troll Maria"

I've never claimed to be "the most expert programmer on earth," Maria. Nor would I. ( Your resort to ad hominen, Maria, betrays your vulnerability! )

"Too high maintenance;" you should get a grip! My clients, over the years, have demanded repeat consulting services. They recognize the value of someone thinking "outside the box" for solving their computer/business problems.

The fatal myopia they _all will ultimately suffer, is not taking my _repeated advice to EXPAND 2-DIGITS YEARS TO 4-DIGITS!!

I'm worth every penny I've ever accepted!

Regards, Bob Mangus # # #

-- Robert Mangus (, December 23, 1998.

pshannon: Your absolutely right about the people thing. Should my family or my property be endangered, the LAST place I will be is at my job. For this prioritization I make no apologies.

In many respects, the new age of the 'expendible employee' has led many, including myself, to adopt an 'expendible employer' approach. I have stated, on more than one occassion, to my current and past employers, that there will never be a need to terminate me...they need only ask for my resignation and they will have it immediately. I will go with causing trouble. That being said, I like my job and my employer and want to do what I can to make sure that their business is a success. But there's no real loyalty here on either side of the table. They pay me and do the best job for them that I can.

But I've already terminated one employer for invasion of privacy and an overly paternal attitude. They had been warned serveral times that such an attitude would not be tolerated. No, I did not get mad and storm out the door. I simply found another employer and gave them my two weeks notice.

I don't file lawsuits or grievances. I only look to improve my situation. Since adopting this attitude about 10 years ago, I have found myself to be MUCH happier and much less dependent on my employer. For me, it's actually an empowerment. Of course, the lawyers don't see much future in it but that doesn't keep me awake at nights.

But back to the subject at hand, it is MY responsibility to protect my family and my property -- not my company's. If my employer should be able to offer assistance, we may be able to neogotiate something but I do not expect nor demand such assistance. Neither should my company expect me to put their interests above those of my family. If my company doesn't like that...well, they need only ask for my resignation. I'll go quietly an peacefully.

That's the reality.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 23, 1998.

# # # 19981223

pshannon & Arnie: Touchi!! Eloquently "flseshing" out my point!

Troll Maria--and her ilk--conveniently overlooked the "fatal flaw" for all their high-brow, flatulent filled contingency plans.

Of course, if you're a corporation, you might contrive plans, anticipating some sort of government bail-out ( a la Chrysler ). The bail-out for the Y2K-scenario could only be declaration of martial law. Forcing non-loyal employees to show up--OR ELSE!

Thank you for your contributions!

Regards, Bob Mangus # # #

-- Robert Mangus (, December 23, 1998.


The whole planet runs because of the people and what they choose to support, or not. Arnie, I love I've already terminated one employer... Absolutely.

I suspect its the smaller companies that may well engender more loyalty. The kind with managements that have a proven track record of supporting and understanding their staffs personal lives are directly intertwined with their working lives. We may well see small business communities develop alongside the residential communities, that become mutually supportive in the upcoming times of change.

As to martial law, the potential enforcers have families that theyll prefer to be with too. I can actually envision a time when the military, et. al., rather than taking an adversarial roll, will become integrated into the local communities. That will be a post Y2K rolling window of opportunity.

Effective contingency plans are always co-dependent upon the people who choose to carry them out, and what their primary motivations are. Even conquerors of old lost armies when they couldnt pay or feed them.


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 23, 1998.

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