Why it was always going to happen?…straight from the horses mouth

No one likes a smart arse or so they say, but this time the phrase ‘we told you so’ is echoing right around Europe and not just in risk management circles.

Quarter Horse Portrait

Whether it is Tesco, Aldi, Iceland, Birdseye, Findus or any other household brand name, they all share one thing in common – squeezing unwieldy, complex and unaccountable supply chains too hard to sell on price. Furthermore they have then compounded this by failing to ensure compliance with standards and properly auditing and monitoring their supply chains to ensure quality.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. The recent mislabelled horse meat scandal is just the latest debacle!

It was Investment Bankers, City Wiz Kids and the ‘light touch of regulation’ that made us poorer in 2008, and is still to be recovered from by all of us.

Before that, in the 80’s, it was BSC (popularly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’) caused by infected Beef brought about ‘rendering’ offal and meat and mixing it in feeds for livestock.

Last year it was a Staffordshire Hospital, who failed to meet its duty of care to hundreds who died prematurely, and have since been brought to book through the Francis Enquiry.

Now processed meat products for Burgers, Bolognaise and Lasagnes have at least been mislabelled, and at worst, are downright dangerous having been contaminated with Bute (‘Phenylbutazone’ a substance banned for human consumption).

It really is now wonder, when in some cases there are 475 supply chain steps from farm to table and the ‘horse passport’ intended to provide traceability in horsemeat has 75 separate organisations doing the same thing in an uncoordinated manner.

No surprise either to see the recent reports emerging of the ‘whistle blowers’ who have for years been warning authorities that horse meat was getting into the supply chain and contaminating food for human consumption.

I was always worried about a new regulator appearing with the abbreviation ‘FSA’ (Food Standards Agency) after witnessing the ‘cowboys’ in the government relative ‘FSA’ (Financial Services Authority), wondering what would actually achieve for us?

So whilst not wishing to be a smart arse the lessons really should have been learnt before, and our corporate memory should have ensured the right risk mitigation and organisational structures were put in place: Risk Management – especially in critical service sectors and for supply chains operating in businesses who want to survive and prosper is not an optional extra or grudge purchase only made when your backs against the wall.

Government and businesses (we work with both by the way) must recognise there are not cheap options to this and that they have a duty to customers and consumers of their services and products. It’s time for a paradigm shift throughout the UK (and Europe perhaps), risk management needs to be mainstreamed in all our activities if we are to really dig ourselves out of the hole that has been dug by those that know best!!!

Look at Waitrose, the Co-op or WM Morrison to see how short, simple, quality assured supply chains and standards in the food industry should work.

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“Proud to avoid tax”…Is that a risky statement?

Proud to avoid tax - what is the risk?As risk managers we regularly see gaps in businesses continuity and resilience in our corporate clients business infrastructure, systems and processes, so we work with them to mitigate them in a proportionate and cost effective manner. We have seen what can happen to those that ignore such risks and at times we have witnessed some in financial services weigh up in private the cost of paying fines for non-compliance as opposed to investing in risk management.

But last week’s statement by Google’s chairman, Herr Eric Schmidt, about his company’s tax structure (as reported in the Daily Telegraph on 13th December) has to be the most blatant gamble seen in challenging the unease and gathering world public opinion that if we ‘are all in this together’ how is it that the big multinationals like, Starbucks, Facebook, Google, Amazon et al can get away with tax avoidance schemes?

Herr Eric Schmidt undoubtedly has a duty to shareholders to maximise profits but I cannot agree with Damian Reece that he should be applauded. We all (businesses, governments and citizens) have social and corporate obligations and responsibilities in the various countries we live, visit, work and trade in.

He arrogantly either believes Google is armour plated and will swim against the tide or is blatantly ignoring the manner in which reputation and consumer confidence can be damaged by ill thought through comments; ignore history of numerous corporate failures and Gerald Ratner at your peril Herr Schmidt!!

As a global business we will be removing Google as the ‘in-house browser’ and as owners of six websites, we will be looking for alternatives to Google adwords for our online advertising. An insignificant protest but maybe, just maybe, others will follow – what do you think??

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Just a drop in the ocean?

Fiscal Cliffs, Eurozone Debt, Triple Dips, No Bank Lending and Water, Water everywhere that does not prevent fire causing major disruption!!

If you’re still in business and maybe even making a profit rather than just surviving in this unprecedented climate, are you resilient enough to come out the other end?

Did you see the BBC Breakfast business section on the 27th November 2012? Featured were two businesses who have been through a massive fire ‘Airedale Springs (remember them?) with a 20 year track record, but no Business Continuity Plan despites its size and maturity. So, in August 2012 production ceased and they are just only getting up and running again. They survived only because their office block was separately located and their IT survived. A combination of outsourcing production with competitors and assistance from the local authority has paved the way for recovering the business but they still openly admit they have a long way to go.

A retail example; Party Superstores, was burnt out last year in public disorder in Clapham Junction. They have tried an alternative approach and having become a successful Debenhams concession, expansion now beckons across the UK stores network.

So the lessons here are that without a BCP (Business Continuity Plan) you can have a lucky escape and you do not need to rush out and build your own Ark. However with over 80% of businesses that have a significant business interruption failing within the next 18 months it’s a brave or even reckless CEO or Owner who does not weigh up the risks and put a proportionate level of contingency planning in place.

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Who is bursting your bubble?

…and, by-the-way where are your clothes?

The story of the little boy and the emperor’s new clothesWe all remember the story of the little boy and the emperor’s new clothes. He successfully pointed out to the emperor that he had been misled by trusted advisors and rogue tailors. In the historical setting in which the story is told I doubt the advisors and tailors took too kindly to this unhelpful intervention and probably took some predictable means of redress upon the boy and his family.

As times change there seems to be a proliferation of emperors who hold great sway not just within their empire but, via an ever global interdependent world, on our little piece of the action as well. But where are the brave souls whose job it is to say, ‘Excuse me, but….’

Not it seems from ‘the big four’ auditing firms. For the (UK) Financial Reporting Council has recently criticised these firms for not being challenging enough and seemingly waving through their clients’ questionable accounting processes.

Nor it seems from Non-executive Directors (if you have them). These independently minded individuals are there to ask the awkward questions around governance and other issues. As BP found, these questions around risk ownership and skill appear not to have been asked.

Nor from in-house committees tasked with specific roles such as determining what was later judged to be the excessive re-numeration (compensation) of executives and chairs. But has a new voice emerged from an unlikely source?

A major bank was recently ‘stunned’ by the depth of ill-feeling amongst shareholders as to the proposed re-numeration package for its executives. A chief executive is standing down from his role in a global pharmaceutical company after pressure from investors. Now, an international Insurer is engaging in a ‘listening exercise’ having lost its chief executive following investor dissatisfaction, mainly around the company’s pay policies. And most recently, the head of a marketing and PR firm may have over-egged his case for a 30% pay rise. Arguably, with a global outlook, these issues arise all the time but are they signs of increasing power outside the boardroom?

As an interested observer and picking up some of the journalistic comparisons to the ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Investor Activism’, I began to wonder whether corporate leadership in these and other organisations saw the writing on the wall and seemingly did nothing, or did they employ a form of isolationism to deal with the unpleasant signals around performance and pay? For the most stunning part of this part of the story in the fact that a bank’s leadership was ‘stunned’. The only explanation I can currently come up with is that too much time is spent living in the corporate bubble. The flow of information perhaps inhibited by a range of trusted advisors, auditors, assistants and those who, out of self-interest, want to maintain the status quo. Out of benevolent thinking I began to wonder whether the corporate entourage were in fact hostages and therefore suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome. A more likely explanation is simple ‘group think’ and ‘optimism bias’. As Michael Woodford, former CEO of Olympus, recalls the objective was ‘don’t rock the boat, don’t make any noise’. In this environment, bubbles strengthen to become enclaves of ‘preferred ones’; not so much a bubbles more of a vault, a continual ‘away day’.

Perhaps these events will lead to increased interest in more established information systems such a management of risk and stakeholder analysis. Residing in a bubble is not that uncommon and I recall a conversation with a senior manager who had just had a less than constructive dialogue with his director over a predicted and significant failure. ‘Why didn’t you make me listen?’ was the director’s eventual response to the bad news. Amazing! If you were running a corporate health check this sort of information should have you running for the defibrillator.

On the subject of recalled conversations on this occasion with a USAF Colonel who was recounting a meeting with his General who made his position quite clear, ‘Don’t call me when your trousers are hanging round your ankles, call me when I can make a positive impact on the situation’. Here is what I think the General was really saying:

  • I expect you to deal with many difficult things but I recognise there will be occasions when you need help;
  • I expect you to recognise those occasions in good time;
  • Ask me for help and advice, that’s what I’m here for;
  • If you drag me into a bad situation too late in the game; expect the worst.

Of course, we all have blind spots and we all at some point fail at something. These can be minimised by an honest outside view. This means working with you to develop your own governance and assurance systems especially around Management of Risk and Business Continuity.  It means nurturing the many messengers in your own organisation and providing a risk architecture to enable you to make the right decisions and most of all, the means to burst your own bubble. The all-important softer skills around dealing with people with low attentions spans is for another time.

You can call us whenever you like. We can help you get out of a bad situation but we believe prevention is better than cure.

Written by Alan J Pawsey

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The Nuclear Renaissance – Are you fit for purpose?

Guiding your company into the ‘new build’ nuclear supply chain

Industry predictions are that 230 new nuclear power stations will be built worldwide over the next 25 years. The UK alone requires around 50 new units in the long term and upwards of 70% of new jobs and business could be fulfilled by the regional manufacturing and services supply chain. With this in mind, we need to ‘raise our game’ if we are to succeed in the UK and simultaneously compete worldwide. Once in the chain, opportunities open up allowing inclusion in the industry’s international procurement process and the potential to share in £40 billion worldwide!

There is a requirement for a highly resilient supply chain; the industry demands ‘relentless predictability from its supply chain’ and ‘suitably experienced and qualified persons’ (SQEP’S) so…

  • There is heavy reliance upon accreditation to British and International Standards
    Selection for approved contractors/suppliers is rigorous and continuous
  • For new or existing suppliers to the old industry, this will still be an extremely demanding environment
  • Procurement processes and tendering through the UK Chambers of Commerce will be the norm
  • A winning supplier needs demonstrable good governance, rigor in management systems and quality, compliance with nuclear standards and transparent business resilience

So where do you think you are and what can you do next?

  • Do nothing and hope for the best in procurement process? – Not recommended!
  • Scope and address the issues in-house, assuming you have the right resource with
    the right skills and with spare capacity? – Unlikely in today’s business climate!
  • Speak to us at Leema Risk and we can:-
  • Conduct a heath check addressing over 100 key elements of your business providing a traffic light report and recommendations together with detailed feedback and requirements to get ‘Fit For Nuclear
  • Develop a structured approach to improving your overall business resilience and performance
  • Provide a pathway leading to your acquisition of the necessary industry standards and skills
  • Identify further training needs making full use of on line interactive learning @ www.hbcm-il.co.uk
  • Provide vital assistance for those about to complete the Fit For Nuclear process

Whether buffeted by geo-politics in North Africa, clouds of volcanic ash,
mis-management of the global economy, public disorder, electrical or flood interruptions, comprehensive risk management cultures and processes have never been more critical to winning new business

www.leemariskmanagement.com
www.bcptraining.org.uk
F4N and Fit For Nuclear are the trade marks of teh Nuclear AMRC/Sheffield University.

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There was no angel looking over us!

Our growing business recently took on additional office space in a place called Angel Lane. Lease and Legal’s complete we implemented our plan to move functions in gradually over a 2 week period and be fully operational within 4 weeks. 5 days in the Landlord was on the premises with the handy man when the fire alarm started behaving erratically. Despite resets and calling the engineer for telephone advice the fault persisted. A walkthrough of the building identified no apparent causes, the system was again reset, after a short delay it activated again and the building suddenly filled with black acrid smoke. An electrical fire!!!!

After the fire service had been our new office looked like this and we had to set to retrieval and reclamation.

So what went wrong? Well, despite a full forensic investigation by the Insurers all that can be certain is that one of the strip lights above my desk burnt out and it spread from there. Given the entire electrical system had just been overhauled and a new certificate issued and copied with our lease, this seems astonishing to say the least and is still subject to wider investigation.

Fortunately we do practice what we preach so this was not a significant business interruption, (SBI) or major incident requiring crisis management skills and did not require implementation of our ICT disaster recovery plan or business continuity plan. However 10 weeks of aggravation followed while claims were filed, assessed and settled, followed by extensive refurbishment and redecoration. So 3 months later we are now only just up and running with a new bright decor and carpets, new furniture, replacement desk and lap top computers, printers and enjoying working in a more productive environment.

The lessons:

  • Things happen in buildings despite regular maintenance and good property management.
  • Despite all the hype about the cloud, a decentralised approach and scenario planning built around the ‘what if’s’ really works rather than relying on the latest fad and putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • Having good Insurers and brokers helps take the strain.
  • You cannot insure for everything and disruptions to work routines and familiar technology costs the business – being pushed into upgrading from XP professional to Windows 2010 has at times been really frustrating while we work out where that familiar function is now hidden in as new way of doing the same thing!
  • A sense of humour and purpose in applying the relevant bits of your contingency arrangements to make them work in the new environment is essential in overcoming the aggravation factor.
  • Plans for ICT offsite back up, alternative working arrangements, home working and a mixed strategy using more than one option for connectivity, networking, data storage and laptops/desk top computers all need to be in the mix to ensure business resilience. Ours did! Had it not been in place and well rehearsed, then 3 months out of action could well have proved terminal to the business!!

 

Practical Business Resilience

The author Lee Weavers is the Managing Director of Leema Risk Management & BCP Training

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Costa Concordia

Commentary on past lessons not learnt? And so it begins. If lynch mobs were still the norm then Captain Francesco Schettino would have no need of a trial and we could dispense with the need to learn of anything new. Or, more likely, to suddenly remember that we did not take the necessary action from the last time something like this happened. It seems that in maritime law, the captain is solely responsible for the safety of his ship, passengers and crew. Whilst this, in many ways is necessary, it can also lead to an over focus upon a single cause – one man or woman with a bout of human error. Professor Robert Winston (Sunday Telegraph 22/1/12) alluded to natural ‘flight or fight’ responses which can affect us all so maybe we have placed the role of captain on too high a pedestal? Perhaps too early to draw conclusions (but everybody else is!) so I’ll use the story so far to paint a wider picture. Ships running aground have happened before. In July 2002 HMS Nottingham ran aground on Wolf Rock some 480 miles off Sydney, Australia. Wolf Rock was well charted. This important British Warship would have sunk but for the brave action of thirty crew members who staunched the flow of water into the hull. The captain, Commander Richard Farringdon, who had just come aboard from a mission ashore was later commended for his response to the incident. Though later quite pessimistic as to the personal outcome for him,

‘This is quite the worst thing that’s ever happened, [but] character-building stuff. I’d say it’s the worst feeling in the world… Just as the sun comes up in the morning, if you run your ship aground you get court martialled. It hazarded the lives of 250 men and women. We have done significant damage to a major British warship’.

Other officers were later court-marshalled but the crucial point here is that something bad happened, responsibility was unwavering but the co-ordinated response saved the day. Perhaps it is a little unfair to contrast merchant and military practice. No doubt, with the need to be in a state of constant readiness, the Royal Navy conducts plenty of drills and exercises to deal with unexpected damage. On a passenger ship, it might be unrealistic to expect the ship’s magician to suddenly switch to crisis mode. But with training and a cunning clause in his contract – why not? As we know, passenger ships are required to conduct evacuation drills at the beginning of a voyage. Some commentaries are already suggesting that these are viewed as an inconvenience and not taken seriously particularly by passengers. Presumably, attitudes will change almost immediately but for how long? Further back in March 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized having just left Zeebrugge with her bow doors open. A subsequent Inquiry revealed, poor workplace communications and working relationships between the ships operators and shore based managers. Not least, a disease of sloppy working practices. How many of these points will emerge in an inquiry into the Costa Concordia? Or will it end up like the FSA enquiry into Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) no one is to blame, just a series of unrelated events leading to the disaster? What seem to be emerging in financial circles and on the water is a general sense though are common issues of governance, a culture of maintaining good practice, leadership and personal responsibility. Back on the Bridge of the Costa Concordia, was there any element of ‘Captain I think we are too close to those rocks! – actually, I’m changing course for you…’ Yes, the captain is responsible but everyone from board-room to passenger has a stake in an enjoyable yet safe voyage. The question for everyone in that chain is – what have I done to make that happen?

Now transfer this story to your own business:

  • Who does what when things go wrong?
  • Who is in charge – is leadership distributed around the organisation or do people wait for the ‘boss’?
  • Do your teams understand the difference between accountability and responsibility and where each sit in your organisational framework
  • Is there an appreciation of different roles during an incident or emergency?
  • Is there actually any planning or even a plan for crisis management?
  • Are exercises conducted to test and train for appropriate responses to a significant business interruption (SBI)?
  • Does a focus upon Risk and Resilience get in the way of progress and blue sky thinking?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘don’t know’ ’not sure’ or brings on a tinge of ‘yes I must do something about them, then please give us a call +441473 254666 or email us on info@bcptraining.org.uk

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BCP Training presents IOD Suffolk breakfast meeting at Willis Ipswich

Part of a BCP TRAINING Presentation held at Willis in Ipswich for IOD Suffolk

Today our working environment is less secure whether it is threatened by climate change or adverse weather, utility outages, acts of terrorism or the continuing global financial crisis.

‘During the global recovery, a company’s ability to identify and respond to significant exposure to risk before they erupt can mean the difference between survival and failure’

A presentation by Lee Weavers, Managing Director of Leema Risk & BCP Training.

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THIS IS ONE HEALTH CHECK YOU WON’T GET FREE ON THE NHS!

The concept of providing a health check is sound and progressive. It is a truism that any system, human or otherwise, will eventually go wrong. As the owner of systems we always therefore have a choice; to wait until the problem manifests itself and then set about fixing it, or become proactive and assess the likelihood and probability of a problem occurring.

By adopting the first course of action we can reassure ourselves that we are avoiding unnecessary expenditure, and that we will of course be able to sort it out if and when it does arise. This reassurance will however sound rather hollow when we find out that the problem is now probably terminal and that, had we acted sooner we could have ‘nipped it in the bud’.

The second proactive course now seems far more sensible, being able to apply a stitch in time will almost certainly prevent the need for nine.

Today our working environment is less secure whether it is threatened by climate change or adverse weather, utility outages, acts of terrorism or the continuing global financial crisis.

But we just don’t want you to think about the obvious risks that may exist within your business, it’s often the subtler ones that may catch you out! Our teams can support you because we have a wide range of risk management and related mainstream business skills including:

- security audits & surveys
- environmental management
- security & information management
- overt and covert technical security solutions
- risk assessment, risk entity profiling & risk mitigation
- business impact analysis, service interruption analysis
- crisis & incident management
- supply chain management auditing
- succession planning
- change management
- leadership
- performance management
- programme and project management
- strategic & business planning
- training delivery
- table top and live exercising
- coaching & mentoring
- business & financial analysis
- ICT audit, review & fail over testing

Health Checking – A Prelude to Impact Analysis & Business Continuity Planning

The following is an extract from a health check carried out for a retail based buying group with a turnover of some four million pounds per annum. The company is currently performing well in a difficult environment and would be judged as successful by any means of assessment. The senior management team however had the foresight and prudence to ask for a ‘drains up’ examination of their operation. The findings, and recommendations, have enabled them to identify a programme of modifications and
improvements which will substantially improve their future resilience and ensure their crisis and incident management capacity is improved:

 

Here we see poor overall incident or business interruption preparedness and a fragmented view amongst employees and managers of risk responses and the critical ICT room being extremely vulnerable to fire, the backup power supply did not work and represented a fire risk in its own right and critical data and systems were not regularly saved and safely stored.

This is what the health check exposed when the spotlight turned to examining the current level of planning and incident management structures to respond to a crisis or significant business interruption (SBI)

 

With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 bringing back so many vivid memories of extreme risk, recent domestic riots and looting of businesses, many of which will never recover, a gloomy economic environment and threats from unpredictable and unseasonable weather interruptions to businesses a constant reality managing risks has never been so important to us all.

Do should reading this post get you thinking about just how resilient your operation would be in the event of a significant business interruption, pause and examine your feelings for a moment; would you honestly describe them as confident or complacent?

If, and only if, your honest appraisal is the latter then you could do far worse than get in touch with Leema Risk or perhaps check out the training opportunities on bcptraining.org.uk which include health checking processes in BCP1.

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY MANAGEMENT RISK?

 

 

 

The word risk is increasingly popular in today’s language yet intrinsic in many daily activities.  Essentially, risk can be defined as ‘uncertainty that matters’.  Whilst most of us take responsibility for relatively simple activities such as crossing a road or cutting the grass, our expectations on others who manage risks that affect us are increasingly a focus of attention.  It could be argued that customer expectation has disproportionately outgrown industry’s capacity to deliver almost anything by tomorrow at the latest.  Of course, some organisations are excellent at this, particularly the grocery delivery sector.  Generally however, the higher the expectation, the higher the risk  in this information and  media driven world with  ever more discerning customers demanding   and verifiable product provenance, the risk and potential for failure rises.

But, how often have you heard from the boss that ‘failure is not an option’? Or, if you are the boss, how often have you said that?  Alastair Dryburgh (Management Today Jan 11) suggests that the ‘best way to guard against failure is to accept that it always a possibility’.  Not doing so creates the stark prospect of organisational blindness, rigidity and concealment.  All of these can lead to dishonesty.  This ranges from theft or fraud to simply not reporting important – but unwelcome – information.   Both can lead to financial loss and reputational damage from which you may not recover.

Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) provides a mechanism to open up an organisation in order to expose and prioritise future threats and opportunities.  These threats or opportunities may emanate from operational or strategic levels.  In other words; from what is happening on the shop floor today, to where your organisation might be in five years time?  In practical terms:

  • If you are running an airport – you’ll probably need to be thinking about snow ploughs now as you may not get ‘next day delivery’ just before the next cold snap.  In fact, now might be too late!
  • Or in the Water Industry – will your customers put up with prolonged gaps in service due to leaks when you’ve known about the problem for years?
  • Will the bank continue to finance your growth programme – because they have new financial rules around liquidity or maybe a better way of assessing the risk about you!  This could be a simple question – ‘how do you manage your risks?’
  • You may be chief executive of a large and complex public body – what are the ‘hot’ areas that need your attention.  Your strategy will fail unless who have a regard for operational risk.

So what does an Enterprise Risk Management process look like?

An effective risk architecture will ensure that the inputs to the central iterative process will deliver the assurance and compliance that you need.  In addition, you will be able to make better informed decisions and be more efficient because you will waste less effort through failure.  Other highlights of this model are Behaviour and Proportionality inputs.  Behaviour is increasingly recognised as an essential element.  Lloyds of London recently published a summary of the negative behavioural traits that led to large financial institutions going to the wall.  These include optimism bias, poor threat perception and an inability to understand the dynamics of ‘group-think’. In the words of William Wrigley, ‘if two people in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary’.  In essence, managing risk can be extremely inconvenient.  This is exactly why we need an element of proportionality.  One size does not actually fit all.  You do not need to create a risk monster with a huge appetite for resources and information.  But you do need to know your own appetite for risk – how much risk would you like (ie value) against how much you can actually take (capacity).  Insurance companies are going through a similar exercise now with the advent of Solvency II.

One thing for sure, if you don’t take risks and seize opportunities you will not be going far and others will soon be moving you out of the way.  ERM provides you with a mechanism to at least know what risks and opportunities are and how the effectively respond to them.

So how should Enterprise Risks be organised?

The table below is a starting point for categorising the sources of risk in your organisation; read more on how we approach it at www.leemarisk.com


Alan Pawsey – Why Manage Risk – BCP Training and Leema Risk Management   July 2011

Making the process embedded means that everyone in your organisation can get involved!  Others, with oversight perhaps, will add global dimensions such as financial instability, geo-politics and climate change. A few Thoughts and Questions:

  • The only alternative the risk management is crisis management and that is far more expensive, time consuming and painful.
  • How confident are you that your business manages risk effectively?
  • What oversight and assurance mechanisms are in place to protect your reputation and brand?
  • How much risk can you actually afford to take?
  • How often do you and your management team openly talk about risk?
  • Are you solving the right problems and taking the right action?
  • Being lucky doesn’t mean you are good!
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