Risk in work unit business planning: How to answer the four big questions

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Four big questions: Benefits, Costs, Dangers, Capabilities Example of draft objectives (payroll unit)

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You may want to warm up by writing your own version of what you think the objectives should be. Having been through business planning, you already have a very good idea of what you’re about.

But for risk purposes, assurance comes from being systematic as well. Assurance is the key to looking the boss in the eye, and getting the objectives right is the foundation for assurance.

Four big questions: Benefits, Costs, Dangers, Capabilities

By way of being systematic, continue by writing down answers for these four big questions.

  1. Benefits: What does the organisation expect the unit to deliver in exchange for the cost of maintaining it?
  2. Costs: What costs does the organisation incur in maintaining the unit?
  3. Dangers: What unintended consequences could arise from the unit’s activities (and are best avoided)?
  4. Capabilities: At the end of the plan period, which unit capabilities need to be as good or better than they are now?

There is no need for precise answers. Just try to cover all the key points responding to each question. Write down as many useful answers as make sense.

Example draft objectives (payroll unit)

Your answers might end up looking like this example for the payroll unit within a large organisation.

Payroll Unit – objectives for the coming year

Benefits: What does the organisation expect the unit to deliver in exchange for the cost of maintaining it?

  1. Get employees paid correctly
  2. Comply with union pay agreements
  3. Pass the annual financial statement audit
  4. Introduce quality control

Costs: What costs does the organisation incur in maintaining the unit?

  1. Minimise unit salary costs
  2. Minimise payroll ICT costs

Dangers: What unintended consequences could arise from the unit’s activities (and are best avoided)?

  1. Fraud by employees or payroll unit members
  2. Fraud or cyber-attack by outsiders
  3. Too much unrecorded absence

Unrecorded absences: Employees being absent but being paid as though working. Includes unrecorded short absences (cigarette breaks) through to personal time on official travel, part-days with no leave record, whole days, to incorrectly recorded weeks of known extended absences. The employee may let the boss know about the absence, but the absence is never formally recorded for payroll and HR purposes.

  1. Confidentiality breaches

Capabilities: At the end of the plan period, which unit capabilities need to be as good or better than they are now?

  1. Maintain capability to pay employees
  2. Move payroll to the new system as identified in the strategic plan

Recommended next article:

Risk in work unit business planning: Firming up the objectives

Qualities: Necessity, Sufficiency, Ownership, Independence

Previous article: Risk in work unit business planning: Re-generating the objectives

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