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The Perfect Pecan Pie – Take a “SWAG”

In ISO 14971, Risk Analysis, Risk Management on February 16, 2011 at 3:29 am

Here’s a riddle…

                How do you know when you’re getting old?

                When country starts sounding really gooood.

Despite what you might think, my intent is not to make fun of country. Everyone’s tastes change over time. At a young age I fell in love with the sticky sweet sound of jazz singers, but in recent years I have started to warm up to the sound of modern country singers. Why?

                In order to properly appreciate a story about love lost and disappointment you need to have experienced life’s little pimples. I think life has finally beat me up enough times that I can personally relate to the deeper melancholy lyrics of country music. Another reason for my greater appreciation is that modern country is a cousin to jazz—kind of bluesy. I think you can see how I’ve grown in this week’s music video selection. My choice is the theme song from the movie Crazy Heart, “The Weary Kind”, written and performed by Ryan Bingham.

My series on the subject of Risk Management training continues (see my most recent blogs on the same topic). In my Risk Management Training, I use the example of making “The Perfect Pecan Pie” as a practical example of applying the principles of Risk Management.

                One of the most important steps of the Risk Management process is hazard identification. I described the process I use for hazard identification in my earlier blog on Risk Management planning. Section 4 of the 14971:2007 Standard defines the requirements for Risk Analysis. Hazard identification is only the first step in Risk Analysis. If done correctly, you should be able to identify hundreds of things that can go wrong with your pecan pie (i.e. – hazard identification). The next step in Risk Analysis is prioritizing these hazards. Prioritizing hazards should focus on the “severity of effect” first. I prefer to use a 5-point scale of even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8 & 10). The reason for this is that I like to create a risk matrix that is 5×5 and I want to emphasize severity over probability of occurrence—the two factors that make up risk. I learned this strategy from an auditing client (Thank you for sharingJ).

                Any potential pit fall that could prevent on-time delivery of the perfect pecan pie should be identified in your Risk Management File, but not every potential hazard requires risk controls. Once I have identified the potential hazards, I estimate the probability of occurrence next. Probability is estimated on a 5-point scale also (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5). The product of the two estimates is the estimated risk. I like to set a threshold for risk controls at 10. Therefore, any hazard that deserves a 10 for severity of effect will automatically require implementation of risk controls. For each product, companies should establish their own criteria for risk acceptability (i.e. – the Risk Management Policy). The potential benefit of the product should also impact this policy. High risk products should have great benefits too.

                Most people struggle with estimating these two numbers. Don’t worry! Take a “SWAG” (scientific wild-ass guess). What matters is that the risk analysis is reviewed and updated. Companies seldom get the risk analysis right the first time so it is critical to review post-production data and update the risk analysis based upon this data. If people tell you that your pie is too sweet, try to estimate what percentage feel that it is too sweet and what percentage feel it is just fine.

                For example, I used to think that a toasted flavor was ok. Most of my family likes this flavor, but the rest of the world seems to hate it. Once you figure this out, you need to change your risk controls to make sure the pie doesn’t burn—even a little. You might try decreasing the temperature or increasing the monitoring frequency. Either way you will decrease the potential frequency of burning a pie.

                You have now completed Section 4 of the 14971:2007 Standard. Please remember there are eight slices to every pie:)

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