Over the last few months, in discussions with colleagues and business associates, I’ve noticed an increasing focus on risk management and geo-political risk. As we all know, risk management is not a new function. However, in a recent interview with AIRMIC CEO Julia Graham, “risk managers are centre stage in a world of permacrisis”.
Right from the start of my military career, information gathering, analysis of that information, and a risk assessment against that analysis of the information became second nature. As I came to the end of my army career, tactical doctrine developed empowering all ranks to engage in this process. Every operation would start with a briefing on the situation. This not only stated what the situation was but also answered the “but so what?" question as best it could. In its simplest terms, “it’s raining outside, so if you are going out, you’ll need an umbrella.”
In this post-pandemic perma-crisis world we are now working in, organisations have been managing the risks and impacts thrown at them by Covid, extreme weather events, and the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. And there are other consequential curve balls - economic uncertainty, fuel prices and the cost-of-living crisis. Returning to the CEO AIRMC interview, among the excellent points Julia makes, here are a few I will expand on with my thoughts:
1. In discussing where the threat of a pandemic is now on risk profiles, it was stated that in many organisations “it’s way down the list.” In the aftermath of 9/11, the consultancy I worked for at the time was extremely busy providing advice and assistance to numerous clients. Why? The event was in the media and had never been witnessed before, or even considered. Many people knew someone or a friend of a friend who was impacted by the attack. As summer approached, board rooms moved on. The same applies to risks – full attention one day, forgotten the next.
2. When asked about changes in the landscape during Julia’s tenure three points caught my attention:
o Risk leaders cannot address all risks - everyone needs to be involved due to the world's complexity and dynamicity. This really resonates with me and brings me back to what I witnessed in the military as all ranks became involved in contributing to the risk management process.
o That “the days of risk in silos have gone” is music to my ears. It must be an on-going process that everyone contributes to, and it must be across all internal activities and monitoring external influences and pressures.
o The final point that piqued my interest, and that I wholly agree with, is that the pandemic presented organisations with a non-traditional response pathway. It was not a case of an exploded tanker attended by emergency services to make safe, clear up, and generally crisis manage the situation. Covid became an evolving and omnipresent risk. Its shadow was cast over the workplace, education establishments, and pretty much anywhere people gathered. Future crises may not be on the same scale as Covid. However, with the interconnectivity of everything, the speed of development of technology and communications, and against the background of Citizen Journalism, agility and flexibility will be the key to responding in a robust and responsible manner.
Going forward, what are my takeaways from this? Take some time to study and understand your environment. Stop being fixated with our phones, put away our earphones and pay attention to what's happening around us. This will allow us to ask the question “Yes, I see it, but so what?”. Observation and asking pertinent questions at the right time can be crucial in identifying risks and mitigating potential impact.
We are all involved in risk management and ensuring it is an on-going, dynamic process, acting in partnership with those responsible for crisis and incident management and communications at every level within an organisation.