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Part V | Perception: we can control everything vs. Reality: we can only influence


We Can Control Everything


We Can Only Influence

We tend to believe the more control we have over something, the better. And why wouldn’t we? Control gives us predictability. It’s efficient. It stabilizes. It makes our lives easier and heck of a lot less stressful.

But sadly, the truth is there’s only thing you can control in this world: yourself.

Control is Impossible

Understand and internalize this right now: The illusion that you are in control or that you even can control inevitably leads to dangerous behavior and attitudes.

First, you end up in a special hell of policies, procedures, and performance indicators—basically, the mire of micromanagement—which means more steps, more documentation, more meetings… more stuff that ultimately doesn’t benefit your objectives. This kind of thinking can sink an entire organization; just imagine what it could do to a risk management program, where the buy-in is already so tenuous.

Second, more control leads to less empowerment for team members and, ultimately, to atrophy—all decisions have been made, there is no room for improvisation, and we are not interested in your opinion, thank you very much.

Finally, and most importantly, it creates a false sense of security. You have control, therefore you have a great program.* You have nothing to fear!

*PS, if you think you’ve got a great program, what you probably have is a system that may manage threats… but doesn’t do a single thing to prevent them.

What to Remember

After reading the above, we should all be in agreement that control just isn’t possible in complex environments with independent actors. The best we can do is to influence. So in this world of randomness, how do we effectively influence our risk management process?

  • Plan – We can’t predict and define everything, but creating a road map that outlines the no-brainers and common sense actions gives us a starting point.
  • Manage by discovery – Our plan is the most essential tool in the evolutionary process of building a risk management program. Take that plan and follow it… until presented with an event or learn new information that requires course-corrective action.
  • Create conditions and incentives – Set definitive goals, but give the team free range to brainstorm and encourage non-linear thinking. Off-the-wall or simply off-the-mark, all ideas have merit, even if they only help lead us to the best solution.
  • Engineer resiliency – Instead of trying to predict and control unpredictable, uncontrollable risks, prepare managers to expect to encounter unpleasant surprises. Don’t wait for accidents or black swans. Instead, assess the way your organization responded to small disturbances in the past, and integrate this new knowledge into your risk management plan to create what we call “stretchiness.”
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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