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Large Initiative Paralysis

Have you ever received such a large task that you become overwhelmed to the point of paralysis? I know whether I’m leading a project or a contributing member, the question of, “where do I even begin?” or a long line of “BUTs” start spreading like wild fire. Next thing you know, you and/or your team is spun around the axle and your initiative is in jeopardy before you start.

As I demo our process safety lifecycle software, I often feel a level of anxiety in the attendees as they have been working towards ISA-84 compliance and trying figure out how they are even going to start populating a lifecycle tool. Here are examples of things I repeatedly hear or tangibly see in their eyes.

  • “BUT we have data all over the place”
  • “BUT we have so many stakeholders throughout the lifecycle"
  • “BUT parallel initiatives with some overlap are in process”
  • “BUT we are not even close to compliance”
  • “BUT…”  

The simple truth is, becoming ISA-84 compliant and implementing a lifecycle solution is a monumental effort. However, the fact remains, it is nearly impossible to maintain critical process safety data without a lifecycle solution. Therefore, that should be your mission… to avoid paralysis. Knowing that you need a tool to help you through revision control, to transfer data from one technical owner to the next, and to provide an audit trail should help ignore the doubting “BUTs” in the room.


Once you have that mission, here is my advice… take small steps and group them into phases. For example, if you feel confident in your LOPA documentation and want to focus on SIS design and SRS documentation, remove all other complexities. Sure, it’s always important to see the big picture to avoid losing direction; however, leaving other portions of the lifecycle to the next phase provides the opportunity to hit phase-1 out of the park! This “bite-sized” approach allows you to grow as you go – evolution not revolution. By utilizing a lifecycle tool sooner than later, you become “lifecycle enabled” and avoid future regret costs or simply kicking the can down the road for someone else to handle in the future.

While I did not develop this philosophy, I do find myself more successful when I follow this methodology from the start and avoid what I call “large initiative paralysis.”



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