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Part I | Perception: people will believe vs. reality: people just don’t care

Perception:

People will believe

Reality:

People just don’t care

While there will be dozens of components to consider as we begin our risk management plan, the most vital is the people behind it. It can also be the most frustrating—people may not exactly be falling over themselves to volunteer for the team. Most people would agree that risk management is important, but there tends to be a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to building and implementation.

Why don’t people care?

In general, the concept of risk management just isn’t natural or intuitive to most people. It goes against many of the frameworks we’ve developed to explain how and why things work. While there are dozens of reasons people don’t care, there are four major actors.

First, it goes against our desire for instant gratification. Rather than consciously evaluating options from a long-term perspective, we humans tend to focus on short-term considerations and present gains. This makes us more likely to discount the future, even if we would personally reap the benefits of planning ahead. Think about people who don’t take care of themselves until they’re given a grave diagnosis, or don’t buy flood insurance until after their house went—literally—underwater. There’s no immediate pay-off for risk management.

Second, the rewards are undefined. Significant investments are required for this process to be successful—time, money, resources—but the benefits are ambiguous, at best. In fact, it’s possible there will never be a demonstrable result of the fruits of our labor. There might never be a crisis, or people may move on to new jobs before the plan they helped develop ever needs to be implemented. So while we understand that risk management is important, we really want to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Then, the Doug and Debby Downers of the world aside, do we generally plan for failure? No. We spend our professional and personal lives planning and striving for success, for growth and reward, for happiness. Some are even superstitious that even talking about something going wrong will actually make it happen. We just don’t like focusing on failure. When we do failure, we seems to come up with million excuses why.

Finally, experience matters. For many on our team, this won’t be their first rodeo. They’ve been on risk management or similar implementation task teams before, and they found it to be an ordeal. Whether it was people, process, or politics, the concept is tainted and easily dismissed.

Understand your people

Before we figure out how to get everyone to believe, it’s important to understand what—and who—we’ll be dealing with. We’ve found there are three kinds of people when it comes to risk management teams:

We’ll have The Evangelists, or the folks who already believe in and understand the benefits of risk management. Maybe they’ve been through a catastrophic event themselves, or they’re aware that an interruption or crisis would hit their departments the hardest. Maybe they’re just natural-born planners. The good news is they’re the most committed to and invested in the process—we won’t have to spend any resources winning them over. The bad news is they’ll comprise only about 10% of our people.

We’ll also probably have about 10% who are actively resistant to the process. These are The Disgruntled. They feel they have too much on their plates already, or they’ve weathered a string of initiatives and “big ideas” that end up only being big time-sucks. The good news with these folks is they’re easy to identify—they’ll be very vocal about how they feel about the task at hand. And you won’t ever change their minds, so you’ll save valuable resources by not even trying to convert them. The bad news is they could poison other team members.

Then we have The Box-Checkers. They’re good corporate citizens and exemplary employees. They’re reasonable people, and understand the benefits of risk management. But they’re only there because they weren’t able to get out of it. They just want to get it over with and check it off their to-do lists… and they’re 80% of your team. The good news here is, if it ends up being quick and painless, they won’t complain much. Even better, if they actually find it fun and interesting, they may even join The Evangelists! But there’s also a chance The Disgruntled will get to them first. So this is where we want to focus our resources—getting The Box-Checkers buy-in is the key to a successful risk management program.

What to remember

So how do we get them to believe? Each company is unique, but there are some core techniques that will help us build a foundation for success. The goal is to get people to want to belong—that is, to be part of something bigger than themselves.

  • Run it like a company: Become an entrepreneur and build a business. Treat risk management as a brand with services and products. As the famous Watson quote - “nothing happens until someone sells something to someone.”
  • Tell Stories: Stories comprise the majority of communication. We use stories to learn, understand, and communicate. Build an arsenal of stories [great stories that people want to hear].
  • Demonstrate value: Frame risk management as another product or service produced by the company, and organize its implementation as we would any other roll-out. Use terms and metrics familiar to the team.
  • Leverage The Evangelists: Place these cheerleaders at key positions to help balance out apathy and combat out-right negativity.
  • Make it easy to participate: In a perfect world, we could stop the clock and give our team the luxury of all the time they need to develop a successful risk management plan. In this world—the real world—we need to be sensitive to the other demands their jobs place on them. Help them delegate their responsibilities outside of risk management. Create realistic timelines, and clearly map out milestones.
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5 fresh perspectives: seeing the world differently
Part I | Perception: people will believe vs. reality: people just don’t care
Part II | Perception: it’s like building a house vs. Reality: it’s like running a farm
Part III | Perception: it’s a paint-by-numbers vs. Reality: you paint it like pollock
Part IV | Perception: the risk manager’s job is to manage risk vs. Reality: to run a company
Part V | Perception: we can control everything vs. Reality: we can only influence