The trouble with managing risks successfully is that the benefits often go completely unnoticed.
When things go horribly wrong it can be very visible – sometimes quite dramatic, sometimes quite distressing. But when we avoid things going wrong people are often none the wiser. And people generally don’t give much thought to the risk that never occurred.
Consider the example of a production manager in a manufacturing company who recognises the risk of a hazardous chemical spill. He carries out a risk assessment and concludes that, owing to current working practices, there is a high risk of a spill occurring, the consequences of which would be extremely serious.
So he convinces the board that processes need to be tightened and staff need to be trained. The board finally agree, although they aren’t particularly happy about the cost.
Rigorous new procedures are implemented, resulting in complaints from staff who thought the old ways were fine and who are unhappy that the new processes take more time and effort. A programme of training is carried out, which team leaders complain about because it takes staff away from day to day operations for a short time. Pretty much all the production manager gets for his trouble is grief.
But, as a result of his actions, the chemical spill doesn’t occur, no-one dies, the factory isn’t closed down, the reputation of the company remains intact, the workforce still have jobs and none of the Board are prosecuted or sued. You’d think the production manager would be hailed as a hero, but sadly in real life that just doesn’t happen.
If being a hero is your aim, forget about managing your risks – you’d be better off letting things go horribly wrong so that you can demonstrate your heroism in the face of adversity! Or you could just take the quiet satisfaction of knowing that, because of your efforts, no-one had to be a hero after all.