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Portrait of Bill HickeyA photograph of the Glenfarclas distillery in Scotland The Single Point Failure Phenomenon

I'm still in Montana caring for my daughter as she recovers from foot surgery. With a bit of luck, I should be home at the end of the first week in March - Mother Nature willing. You know, when we install our officers, one of the things we tell them is that they should be prepared to assume the responsibilities of leadership on a moment's notice in the event of the absence of the officer next above them in line. That's called "continuity of operations" - because we can't just stop doing things because one or two critical people are absent. It happens all the time. Pretty much every Masonic organization says essentially the same thing — BE PREPARED. Think about your favorite sports team that has an injury to cover.

This brings me to my not-so-favorite subject: SINGLE POINT FAILURES. If you don't know what those are, it's where you effectively rely on ONE PERSON to do critical things, and there's little, if any, backup — in other words, no one to pick up the responsibility in the event of sickness, death, accident, or conflict in their schedules.

It's one thing to expect someone to "train their relief" in anticipation of at some time moving on or taking on different responsibilities; it's something else entirely if no one steps up and wants to learn the ropes and be prepared to pick up the slack. In the entertainment industry, it's called being an UNDERSTUDY, and in the trades, it's called being an APPRENTICE. You just can't walk in the door cold and expect to pick up everything with no experience. You have to "pay your dues" (in TIME invested to learn the job).

I can tell you from personal experience, every single point failure person WANTS to have someone shadowing them and even wants to turn over their duties while they are still around to mentor and assist in the handover. You might not think that's so, but it is.

BUT ... if no one steps up and says "I'd like to learn that job. Who do I talk to about getting involved?" then all we are doing is perpetuating that "single point failure" mode of op-erations. WHEN, NOT IF, it finally happens, and something critical either doesn't get done or doesn't get done properly, THAT'S when we realize how important it is to have those understudies, assistants, and apprentices working alongside us.

I don't know of any committee chair at the Consistory that wouldn't welcome someone who wants to help and learn the ropes. Think about it.


William A. Hickey, III, 33°
Editor-in-Chief, Denver Scottish Rite


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