Monday Musings – 30 – Risk Management Vs. Incident Response

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This is a thought provoking story narrated by Bhisma to Yudhistra in Shanthi Parva of the epic Mahabharath. Yudhishtra seeks advice from Bhisma on the duties for a king when Bishma was in his deathbed aka arrowbed. Vyasa gives us many leadership lessons through Bhishma’s advice to Yudhistra. Enjoy this interesting story of ‘3 fish’.

Which fish would you like to emulate?

Three fish lived in a pond. The first fish was farsighted and always responded proactively to any situation that he anticipated (Let us call him ‘proactive’). The second one had a great presence of mind. He could deal with any touch situation using his intelligence (Let us call him ‘presence of mind’)  . The third one was lazy and procrastinated everything (Let us call him ‘procrastinator’).

Some fishermen once came to the lake and started diverting its waters to the canals in order to catch the fish. Seeing the water level receding fast, proactive anticipated danger and warned his companions that they faced grave danger and suggested that they should escape through one of the outlets to another deeper pond quickly. The procrastinator advised the group to wait and not to do anything in haste, arguing that they were born in that pond and they would face unknown dangers in other ponds as well. ‘presence of mind’ assured the group that he would find a way out if such a situation arises and hence advised them not to act in haste.

‘proactive’ decided to act on his own and swam off to the neighbouring deeper through a channel leaving the other two behind. When the water level receded sufficient, the fishermen cast their nets in the pond and drew up the fish. ‘presence of mind’ had enough smartness to act as if caught in the net but actually holding on to the net with its teeth. The fishermen pulled out the net and dipped the net in a neighbouring deeper pond to wash. ‘presence of mind’ immediately left the net and slipped into the deep water.  ‘procrastinator’ however could not escape. It, along with the other fish, was caught and sold in the market.

Bishma concluded the story saying that one should always take note of the impending danger and plan proactively. Else one has to have a great presence of mind and risk appetite to respond to dangerous situations. If a person has neither of the above, he is sure to repent. Meaningful message but the story does not end here.

There is another message as well in the story and that is why Bhisma selected three fish. He would have just selected two fish otherwise.

Who would you like to emulate? Both ‘proactive’ and ‘presence of mind’ escaped the danger, but it is always better and saner to emulate ‘proactive’ than ‘presence of mind’ as that reduces the risk significantly.

This is a great lesson given by Bishma. An organization requires both ‘proactive’ as well as ‘presence of mind’ type of people and processes and definitely not ‘procrastinators’. ‘proactive’s’ mindset is known as ‘Risk Management’ whereas ‘presence of mind’s’ thinking is known as ‘Incident Management’. An organization requires both a good ‘Risk Management policy’ as well as an objective ‘Incident Response procedure’. Good ‘Risk Management practice’ will ensure that the need for ‘Incident Response’ is minimized as much as possible.

Let us emulate ‘proactive’ all the time and ‘presence of mind’ thinking if at all we land up in a situation despite ‘proactive’ thinking. We need both but can never be complacent because we have ‘presence of mind’ aka good ‘incident response plan’.

Ask if your organization follows a good Risk Management culture and if there is a detailed ‘Incident Response Procedure’. Both are important but hope that there is no need to activate the ‘Incident Response’.

Your intelligence would be very useful but can fail you at times. Proactiveness will help all the time.

Is procrastination bad always? Yes and No. How can procrastination help?

There is another story told by the same Bishma to the same Yudhistra from the same arrowbed but with a contrasting message. I shall narrate this contrasting story in the next episode of Monday Musings.


Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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