The worst thing about setbacks is not that it happens, but that we don’t plan for it.

It hurts the most when we are caught off guard. When we don’t expect it or when we never even considered it to begin with. Risk management is easy when we know the quantity and the probability of the events we hope to mitigate.

It would be useful to build in margin for setbacks to avoid additional pressure, cost overruns and huge losses. We don’t do it because it feels like an admission of guilt. We tell ourselves that setbacks only affect those who don’t plan well or who execute poorly.

In reality, setbacks are a margin we manage down to our acceptable tolerance level over time. It’s hard to do when you don’t know your number, to begin with.

Sarah Kilian

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