My niece recently had surgery and as part of that process, there was a nurse in the operating room texting updates to the family. This was very helpful during the hours-long operation and comforting to know that things were going well (which, fortunately, they did.)

But what if they didn’t?

Would the nurse deliver bad news via text? Or, if they just stopped the updates the family would convince themselves that something had gone wrong — which may be worse than waiting to hear from the doctor when the procedure was finished.

A junior staffer may be able to speak with the press about routine business but do you have a plan in place to communicate the news when a tragedy happens? Your internal newsletter may work well for information and updates, but how will you let your employees know about negative situations?

When you design a process or share information, you need to prepare for undesirable outcomes. Before you give someone the combination to the safe, access to the checkbook, or knowledge of the secret formula, consider what would happen if their morals went astray. (e.g. Can you require two people to be present before access is given or can you receive a notification if a withdrawal of over $X is made on the account?)

It’s nice to assume the best about people and to develop practices that presume good intentions, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. You don’t have to prepare for doomsday, but anticipating an occasional dark side is best done in advance rather than in the moment.

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