Risk in work unit business planning: Start point for unit managers

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

Your eyes meet across the large desk. On the desk is the business plan for your unit. The business plan is for the coming year. You have put a lot of time into this plan, though not enough time for you to feel genuinely comfortable about what happens next.

Continuing to look you in the eye, the boss asks:

Have you assessed the risks to achieving this plan? Why should I believe in it?

You look your boss right back in the eye, suppressing any tendency to look too pleased with yourself. You reply:

Yes, we have been through a risk assessment and management process, based on the International Standard and in line with the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy. Here are the results.

You then point to a modest but tidy stack of documents, and refrain from handing them over, as the boss won’t appreciate the implied request to actually read them on the spot. You then add:

Paperwork aside, it was a very good thing to do. As a result of that assessment, we can be fairly confident of reaching an acceptable outcome for the year and keeping the organisation out of trouble – subject to a couple of issues that we discovered as genuine threats. We should discuss those issues now.

We also found some pretty solid justifications for most of the protective practices we have been maintaining. There are others we might consider streamlining out for efficiency.

Resolving those issues could lead to a new edition of the business plan, if changes are still possible.

The conversation then moves to any actual risks and reservations identified through the risk management process.

After that conversation is over, you feel the relief of passing some background worries back up the line, though you also have some new commitments. You weigh up the cost of reaching this point of relative comfort. In the background, you secretly wonder if this moment might represent a quiet but permanent change in the way your unit is seen.

You decide that there was some work involved, but it was actually quite rewarding, and it was much shorter than some other ‘risk assessments’ into which you have been drawn, or dragged. This one was easier because it just pulled together what you knew already. Its value wasn’t to make new discoveries. It didn’t try to do any mysterious magic through emotionally bonding workshops, nor through forcing hard numbers on soft stories. It just built an answer to the question the boss was always going to ask, internally if not out loud: Why should I believe in this business plan? It answered the question in a useful way. Perhaps even a productive and interesting way.

If you want to be in that moment, read on.

There are five parts to the how-to guide for risk in work unit business planning, in two short streams:

What and why:

How-to steps:

Risk in work unit business planning: What is it?

Risk in work unit business planning: Why this way?

First steps to confidence: Find the unit outcomes that matter

Next steps: How your unit might not deliver the outcomes

Decisive final steps: Taking action

Each part has drill-down detail that will open in a separate window.

When following Clear Lines on Audit and Risk, you don’t comply with risk management rituals and rules. You achieve confidence. You share the confidence. And it’s you, the manager, who does it. You get confidence from understanding that you can never guarantee the way things will turn out. You ask how things can be different and take action based on the answers.

That is what risk management is supposed to be all about. It is exactly what the international standards for risk say.

Your experience up to now may have been different. In the meantime, you are free to leave behind everything you know about ‘risk management’. Everything that actually matters is explained here in a way that leads directly to confidence across the large desk.

The steps in this how-to guide are about moving toward that state of confidence and nothing else. If you feel any of the steps aren’t taking you there, please stop and try something else. But also please take a moment to comment on the page that didn’t work for you.

The risk management process in the how-to guide is also partly applicable to risk assessment and management separate from business planning, so could be worth a look for that reason.

If you want to run it past your local risk expert first, this is the best link to send to that expert.


Next article for Managers

Risk in work unit business planning: What is it?

In business planning, ‘risk’ is just the possibility that your unit’s outcomes for the year will be different from those promised in the business plan.

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

Index to the topic Risk in work unit business planning

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