Why we resist risk mitigation

As my wife and I looked at our relocation, one of our biggest fears was that we would not find satisfactory housing quickly.  It had taken six months of sustained househunting to find our current home, which we ended up building (it was part of an established development).  Our experience led us to worry that our 60 days of temporary housing coverage would leave us stuck renting in Evansville — while also potentially paying for a Rhode Island mortgage — until we found a place.

Therefore, we put some mitigation steps in place.  For example, I used frequent “stayer” points from Marriott and Hilton for our first fews weeks of housing.  We also waited to book temporary housing until after we found a house and our offer was accepted.  We will close next week, so therefore it appears that we have not only mitigated the risk, but avoided it altogether.  However glad I am that this risk went away — or has become very small — I’m not very satisfied by the result.   I felt like I had unnecessarily burned points that I could have used for vacation. 

This experience has given a much better feeling for why some types of risk response get short shrift.  In particular, there isn’t much glory in risk mitigation that lowers the probability of an event.  Sure, one can feel happy about stacking sandbags to stop a flood from damaging one’s basement.  There’s a sense of accomplishment in sticking a finger in the dam, shoring up the wall, etc.

But what about preventing the flood in the first place?  Does anyone appreciate that approach as much?

Our relocation project — capabilities vs. specs

As we planned our relocation, we started to search for houses using a set of “features and functions” that closely matched our current house. They were all pretty typical specs: bedrooms, baths, square feet, lot size, schools, age of house, etc.

This approach was useful when narrowing neighborhoods, but they didn’t surface the house we ended up choosing here in Evansville. The house we chose fulfilled the capabilities we wanted from our new house, even though it didn’t exactly match the specs we used to benchmark houses.

For example, our new house’s lot is about half the size of our old lot. However, it does give us the “lot-driven” capabilities that we require — privacy (house faces into a small cul de sac and has nice mature trees around it) and a large, fenced yard space — even though it didn’t match some key yard requirements we thought we had.

For me, it was a useful reminder not to confuse the capabilities one expects from a project with product/solution specifications. In this case, what appeared to be a clear-cut, “must have” requirement of “lot must be over x square feet” would have been better expressed as “lot must be private and have a large, dog-friendly fenced area.”

More importantly, the square footage specification was just that, a specification, not the requirement or capability itself. Specs must serve the capability, not vice versa.

%d bloggers like this: