What is required to support risk management? Seven aspects.

Support for risk management is something that is missing from the mindset of many employees of many organizations. There is work to be done to create the right reflexes that belong to the domains of execution of services, process, or project work and to management. Creating these reflexes sometimes requires a change in the common cultural aspects of the employees and top management.Author: Manu Steens  
In this post I give my own opinion, not that of any organization.  

How do you support risk management?

From the employee’s point of view, the question is: “What does he/she need to want to support risk management?”. The following aspects are important in this respect.

  • Psychological safety.
  • Awareness about biased thinking.
  • Leading by example.
  • Auftragtaktik.
  • Empowerment.
  • Do what you say, say what you do.
  • Understanding cultural differences.

What are these seven things?

These seven aspects are interconnected and can work together. But I discuss them separately here so that they can be approached separately in practice.

Psychological safety.

Psychological safety at work refers to feeling safe and free to be themselves, express their thoughts and ideas, take risks, ask questions, and make mistakes without fear for punishment etc. It has several key features:

  • Trust and respect: employees feel valued for their contributions.
  • Open communication: employees have room for constructive dialogue and discussion.
  • Acceptance of diversity: employees can be themselves, regardless of their individuality.
  • No fear of retaliation if they raise issues, give feedback, or admit mistakes.
  • Room for growth and development: encourage employees to learn, experiment and develop themselves, practice fail forward.
  • Positive group dynamics: it promotes teamwork. Team members support each other.
  • Leadership support: based on the organization’s values, lead by example, listen to employees, value feedback, and foster a culture of trust and openness.

The importance of psychological safety at work is that it contributes to a more productive and innovative work environment through increased collaboration. This provides a positive return e.g., through job satisfaction.

Awareness about biased thinking.

AKA Cognitive bias awareness refers to the awareness that individuals develop about the presence of cognitive biases or thought patterns that influence their judgment and decision-making. They are systematic deviations from objective reasoning. Developing awareness about them is important because it allows individuals to recognize and correct them, leading to better decision-making and interpersonal relationships.

Features include:

  • Self-reflection: take time to think about the way to reason and make decisions.
  • Acknowledging biases: recognizing that they are prone to bias and that this is normal. It is inherent in the human thought process.
  • Identification of specific biases: you can identify specific cognitive biases that affect your thinking. That gives you a chance to revisit them. This will give you ‘Active Correction’.
  • Empathy and understanding: it can lead to greater understanding of others.
  • Improved decision-making: the ability to recognize, empathically understand, and actively correct cognitive biases leads to better decision-making.

Developing awareness about biased thinking is an important step towards improving critical thinking, reducing bias, and fostering collaboration.

Leading by example.

‘Leading by example’ is behaving and acting in a way that is in line with the values, norms, and expectations they want from their team or organization. This allows leaders to inspire and motivate others to follow the same standards and expectations. It has the following elements:

  • Integrity: leaders must act honestly and ethically.
  • Accountability: leaders must take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
  • Engagement: leaders must show that they care about their team members and are willing to support and help them.
  • Empathy: this creates a positive and supportive work environment. Be patient.
  • Professionalism: leaders have a role model.
  • Communication: communicate clearly and transparently about goals, expectations, and direction. Listen to feedback and input from the team.

It has a positive influence on the organizational culture and the motivation of employees. It is based on the idea that actions speak louder than words.

Auftragstaktik.

Auftragstaktik is a German term from the military context and refers to a leadership and command approach in which the executives give their subordinates an overall mission or assignment but give them a significant degree of freedom and autonomy in determining the best way to carry out the assignment.

Key features of Auftragstaktik include:

  • Decentralization: leaders delegate responsibilities to their subordinates.
  • Mission orientation: leaders only define the mission, objectives, and desired outcome to be achieved.
  • Initiative: team members are encouraged to show initiative and make decisions independently.
  • Flexibility: team members must be able to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Confidence: the confidence that the team can carry out the mission.

The goal here is to improve the speed of decision-making, increase flexibility, and increase the effectiveness of the execution of the work. It requires training, and communication of the project’s mission and vision. It promotes initiative, creativity and flexibility within teams and organizations.

Empowerment.

Empowerment is a process in which the team or team members are given the resources, authority, responsibility, and confidence to make decisions and take action to achieve their work goals.

Key elements of empowerment include:

  • Access to information: Empowerment starts with access to relevant information.
  • Skills, knowledge, and training to act effectively in the situation.
  • Authority and responsibility: to be able to make decisions and act.
  • Provide support and resources to achieve their goals.
  • Trust so that they feel confident to act.

Empowerment is relevant in a variety of contexts, including organizational development.

Do what you say, say what you do.

“Do what you say and say what you do” is a principle that emphasizes that integrity and consistency in communication and actions are crucial. Here are some ways you can apply this principle in a work environment:

  • Stick to your commitments: when you make a commitment, make sure you keep it. It shows that you are trustworthy.
  • Be transparent: be open and honest. Communicate issues in a timely manner. This prevents problems from getting bigger.
  • Provide clear and achievable goals: this way, everyone understands what is expected of them.
  • Provide follow-up: let others know how the project is going. It’s a sign of commitment.
  • Be honest about mistakes: if you make a mistake, acknowledge it, and make sure you fix it. Learn from your mistakes. Work on improvement.
  • Provide regular feedback: give positive feedback for a job well done. Be constructive in your feedback for improvement. This promotes openness and growth.
  • Create a culture of trust. Put this into practice by leading by example and both implicitly and explicitly encouraging others to do the same.
  • Good time management: Make sure you set realistic schedules and deadlines.
  • Communicate clear expectations: Make sure everyone on your team understands what’s expected of them.

“Do what you say and say what you do” applies to the organization. It can help build a strong reputation It contributes to the success of the organization.

Understanding cultural differences.

In a multicultural work environment, how can you gain insight into the different existing cultures and align them?

It is very important for effective communication, collaboration, and a positive work environment. Here are some tips you can follow to achieve this:

  • Develop self-awareness: start with self-reflection to become aware of your own cultural background, values, and biases.
  • Active listening: to your colleagues and team members from different cultures. Show interest in their experiences, opinions, and perspectives.
  • Learn about other cultures: with the help of books, articles, documentaries, and conversations. Try to understand how cultural norms, values, and customs can affect behavior and communication.
  • Work on intercultural communication skills: get to know non-verbal communication, body language, and the impact of language use.
  • Build cross-cultural relationships: invest time and effort in doing so. Work informally and organize after-work or on-the-job activities to get to know colleagues better.
  • Ask for feedback: listen to colleagues from other cultures about how you can adjust your behavior and communication to facilitate collaboration.
  • Cultivate an inclusive culture: promote diversity and inclusion. Encourage respect and understanding. Respond against discrimination and prejudice.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: adapt your approach to different situations. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • Training and development: consider offering cross-cultural training and workshops.
  • Build a diverse team: strive for diversity as this increases opportunities to learn from each other.
  • Regularly evaluate how your organization deals with cultural diversity. Gather feedback to improve.

Aligning different cultures in a work environment is an ongoing process.

Conclusion

By playing on these seven aspects, you can promote risk support from the continuous building of the company’s culture. After all, together they provide an incentive for the employees to take matters into their own hands as soon as a threat could cause a disruption of the business.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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