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Small problems often precede catastrophes. In fact, most large-scale failures result from a series of small errors and failures, rather than a single root cause. These small problems often cascade to create a catastrophe. Accident investigators in fields such as commercial aviation, the military, and medicine have shown that a chain of events and errors typically leads to a particular disaster. Thus, minor failures may signal big trouble ahead; treated appropriately, they can serve as early warning signs. Many largescale failures have long incubation periods, meaning that managers have ample time to intervene when small problems arise, thereby avoiding a catastrophic outcome.
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