Organisations that fail are often criticised for being overoptimistic in their ambitions and within their planning assumptions and procedures. We see that this is due to the predominant way people currently look at strategy and performance management; we think that there is a different way of looking at these issues. As well as looking at what we must do well, Critical Success Factors, we see a need to be far more aware of what might go wrong. Research shows that this can be done by asking pertinent questions. But what are these questions? Having researched what they may be we are therefore able to explain why these particular issues should be investigated.
Research has identified that risk governance is, in practice, significantly different from risk management. It identified that those involved in governance are firstly distanced from the activity that generates the risk and secondly are unlikely to be experts in every potential type of risk. Therefore they need to consider themselves to be investigators rather than experts. This means that in their role of investigator they need to concentrate on asking challenging questions of those reporting to them. This suggests that the skills they should have are a clear understanding of the mechanisms that may generate risks and the ability to ask penetrating questions and be open minded enough to probe all the organisation's assumptions. Risk Governance therefore involves asking those questions that the executive may not have considered or for one or more reasons might prefer to overlook.
Answers such as "I did not know" or "I did not ask" should not be seen as being acceptable when executives are asked to explain their failure to prevent a major corporate disaster. But what questions should they be asking - see our page on "Testing Questions".
To help the Risk Governance process, we recommend combining these questions with common risk metaphors as a means of provoking you to see things differently. This has been found to help others to foresee what might go wrong as a precursor to managing these issues effectively - see our page "Risk Metaphors".
As none of us is clairvoyant, how might we be expected to
envisage the future? While it is often assumed that foresight benefits from more data, evidence suggests that what it really needs is superior analysis. To help with the Risk Governance processes, organisations need to establish how they plan to prepare for the future - see our page "Futurology". "Foresight" does not require you to be a "futurologist"!