Every task you do at work can and should be brought back to how it relates to managing risk. If not, why are you doing it?
Financial risk, compliance risk, technical risk, reputational risk, operational risk, commercial risk, strategic risk, human risk, security risk, legal risk, quality risk etc are all examples of risk factors to consider and relate to your work.
Are you familiar with the butterfly effect, or the ripple effect?
It rests on the notion that the world (and our work) is deeply interconnected, such that a small change can have drastic consequences. The work we do is part of a complex system and the decisions we make have significant implications for the outcome of the whole system in which we operate.
What would happen if there were errors in your work or if it was not completed to a suitable standard? Who is the recipient? What are their expectations? How does what you do impact them?
Here’s a couple of thought points:
If you are delivering a project and it runs over time and budget due to an oversight or poor communication, what does that actually mean? Where do the additional funds to complete the project come from and how does the extra cost affect the economic feasibility of the project? Who else is affected by the delays? What happens to the relationship between you and your partners to whom you had made a commitment to deliver the project?
If you are an engineer and your design or operational plan is non-compliant or sub-standard, what financial, reputational, environmental and/or operational damage would result from a catastrophic event that may occur as a result? What other areas of the business will this impact? Who relies on your work? What happens to the operations that were planned to take place in a successful case? Which relationships have been damaged and how will trust be regained?
Six Questions to ask to bring Risk Mindfulness into your work
- What is this for?
Seems simple, but it's easy to run off and start a project before understanding what it's for - only to realise at the end that you could have come up with a better solution had you known what it was for. It's about working smart, not hard.
- Who is it for?
Understand your customer. This will help provide context and clarity as to what's required. If you know who they are, you can go and ask them what they need before you start. Don't be that person who creates something that no one needs and then try to convince your customer why they need it.
- What are the Alternatives?
Some people are resistant to change and therefore choose to not look for alternatives to the work they have routinely been doing for years. There is always more than one solution to a problem. Analyse all the alternative options to what you have been tasked with and go with the option that is best suited to serve what, and who the work is for.
- Who will be impacted by the outcome of this work?
The work you do will inevitably impact other people. In the same way you like to receive information in a particular way that makes your life easy, make sure you consider how your decisions and work impact others to ensure you are not creating more challenges than you are solving.
- What happens if your work is defective or substandard
Seek to understand the implications of your work. There should be a reason you are doing what you are doing, if you understand this on a level deeper than "it's what I was told to do" you will develop a greater sense of urgency and pro-activeness to do good work.
- Think Who, not How
You don't have to come up with all the solutions yourself. Use the knowledge base you are surrounded by. Think "Who can help me solve this", not "How can I solve this". Not only will it save you time and effort, but it will also give your customer peace of mind that your solution involves input from other subject matter experts.
Technical and vocational skill is one thing, but understanding the context and implications of the work you do, whilst thinking critically about the decisions you are making will set you apart.