Improving risk management through ubiquitous capture

Monday morning quarterbacking

After things have gone wrong, we have a tendency to start Monday morning quarterbacking. “How is it possible that they didn’t see that one coming?” Quickly, the comments turn to lack of organization and lack of information exchange. Remember 9/11? Different assessments all pointed to the same conclusion: the information was available, but was never correctly used or communicated.

Black Swan events

The problem is, this happens every single day in most organizations around the world. Quite often the attention points missed related to sales opportunities or customer satisfaction. While extremely important, these should not threaten the license to operate of said organization. However, once in a while a Black Swan Event will occur which can significantly impact the organization to the point of it no longer being able to operate. Think Enron, for example.

However, most Black Swans are not black swans at all. The information on the event and even on its increased likelihood was out there, but was never adequately captured, qualified and handled. Assuming well working risk management systems (I know this is an assumption) a correct capture of the event would lead to proper mitigation.

The need for simple obiquitous capture

So, what is the issue? All other things remaining equal, appropriate event capture is essential. But why doesn’t it happen? I believe a major contributing factor is the ease of capture of events, the so called obiquitous capture.

Obiquitous capture is a concept I have borrowed from GTD where it refers to ensure the most easy and accessible method of capturing everything you are thinking about for assessment later. This concept is the same for organizations. How can you develop a method, a way of working which will encourage collaborators to invest as little as possible of their time to capture as many as possible event indicators which may related to a certain risk?

An example

Alan reads an article in a magazine during the weekend which refers only slightly to an initiative by a direct competitor in the field of his colleague Bill. It does not concern him directly (it’s not the monkey on his back) and he has no means of direct capture … and he is very likely to forget mentioning it to Bill on Monday. Six months later, the competitor launches a new service or solution in the market which seriously dents the market share of the organization Alan and Bill work for. Alan suddenly realizes, starts feeling nauseous, but doesn’t tell. He will not threaten his own position. During the next earnings call, several commentators refer to the article and ask why the organization was not ready for what was in plain view. Now not only the market share is dented, but confidence and reputation as well …

So, what possible solutions for obiquitous capture are out there?