The Little Things Add Up

If you follow college football, you saw the miracle win that Michigan State had over Michigan.

I went to school at Michigan State so I had a “rooting interest”. With only
17 seconds left, Michigan had one play left to secure an upset win. But, the punter fumbled, a Michigan State player recovered it and made it to the end zone for a game winning touchdown.

It was a shocking turnaround. A massive, “one in a million” incident that you couldn’t predict.

I was reading an account in Sports Illustrated of the game. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was sitting and reviewing all that had to happen for the “miracle” to occur.

Here’s the list:

1. The snap had to be low.
2. The punter had to fumble it.
3. He had to try punting it instead of falling on the ball.
4. The ball had to bounce sideways.
5. The ball had to be scooped up cleanly.
6. The right blocks needed to follow.
7. The runner had to stay on his feet into the end zone.

It reminded me of my belief that “unlikely”, bad accidents are the result of a long list of events. Here’s the concept:

The larger of the number of incidents in a string, the more significant the accident seems to be. Further, you can remove any single incident from the stream and the accident would never have happened.

I’ve found this to be true in plant accidents. When a tragic, life changing accident occurs and the investigation takes place, we uncover a number of small things which add up to the big thing.

And, like this touchdown, you eliminate any one of them and the accident wouldn’t have happened.

Those things are shortcuts taken, rules ignored, trainings that didn’t occur, housekeeping that was put off- little things. And, when you let them pile up, the unthinkable occurs.

It causes me to pause. Hopefully you are pausing too.

Maybe you are thinking about one of those small things you let slip. You got away with it this time.

Will you tomorrow?