The Big Thrill

The biggest thrill I get in my role guiding organisations to develop stronger and stronger approaches to risk based decision making is when I run a risk workshop. In particular, for an executive team or board. In those moments they place their trust in you. Trusting that what they say will never be repeated by me, that the time will be valuably spent, that improved understanding – as opposed to increased confusion – will be the result.

My aim is always to have the Chair, CEO or team leader say to me at the end of the workshop something like this:

“Thank you. We’ve never had a conversation quite like that before.”

Why is it that it needs to come to this? Why is it that they have not demanded such a conversation in the past?

One reason is they already have robust conversations. That is, they discuss risks to the business all the time. They discuss the pros and cons of their decisions. They are practicing a form of risk management day-in day-out. What more should they do?

Yet we ask more time of them. And they are busy. Very busy. Why should they stop and think more than normal? Just because a risk professional says: “We should do a risk workshop”?

The answer is because a well-run risk workshop makes them think differently. Because we think differently. Let me explain.

A few years back I had a coffee with a senior risk professional from a very large organisation in a high-risk industry. He started the meeting quite flabbergasted. He told me he had just come from a two-hour workshop with a bunch of engineers. They had been discussing one of the organisation-ending enterprise risks that had been identified. The engineers were explaining the controls they had in place. After two hours he explained to them why the controls would not work and excused himself to go to his next meeting (with me where he needed to vent).

It made me reflect that our backgrounds and training mean we often think differently to other people in business. The challenge is to catch their attention, get them thinking without them feeling like we are being negative or critical and then open their eyes to the possibilities you can see. The POSITIVE as well as the NEGATIVE.

Stay safe and please run engaging workshops.