Managing Risk

Organization development as risk management


I had breakfast with a close friend and colleague recently and he got me thinking about risk management. He’s a big data guy for financial services (I’m not doing him justice with that shorthand description), and he asked me about the kind of risks HR executives worry about and whether they might be subject to the type of data analysis he does. We concluded -- for now -- that the data he would need access to wouldn’t be available without a court order. 

Still, I was intrigued by the whole notion of risk management and how it might apply to the work I do with leaders and executive teams. As I understand it, using big data to find and mitigate risk is all about sifting through relevant information and looking for patterns. What is especially interesting about my friend’s work is that he needs to have some idea of what he’s looking for before he even begins. Without that, there is no way to make sense of the information he has collected.

It’s the same with me. The data gathering I do has to have a point. It seems obvious, but I can’t just make random inquiries or start an interview with, “Talk to me”, and expect to learn anything useful.

Often, the questions I ask can lead to the discovery of unexpected patterns and insights, it’s true. But I’d never get to those without the initial framing of the issues or without having some sense of what I needed to be attending to.

The system always shows me what I’m looking for, if it’s in there. If it’s not, I have to look for something else.

The patterns and insights that emerge from this kind of analysis can create an anticipatory frame of mind, as in “Let’s try this now!” They inform the next set of choices facing the leader or team. Now, they are acting from a place of greater knowledge and can feel more confident.

I wonder if I should add “Risk Manager” to my business card….