Joanna Makomaski

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Column: Risk Management

Whose Risk Prevails?

By: | June 1, 2015 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

When I relay the upcoming story, I fear some of you may think less of me. I am curious however to discover what readers think. So please do write me with your thoughts.

Advertisement




I was on an early morning flight. All the passengers were boarded and settling in for a long flight. The head flight attendant came on the intercom with the usual pre-flight announcements and routine housekeeping information.

At closing, he had one last announcement. He told us that one of the 180 passengers had a peanut allergy and asked that we dispose of any peanut products that we had.

He proceeded to come around to every seat with a garbage bag waiting for us to throw things out.

I was a bit stunned. I had grabbed a morning coffee and muffin just minutes prior.

Was I supposed to throw away my quick breakfast?

Did my Chapstick have peanut oil traces? My face powder? My hand cream? My snack-size bag of almonds?

With the resurgence of measles and other previously controlled or vanquished infectious diseases, should we mix vaccinated children with non-vaccinated children in classrooms? Whose risk prevails?

In the end, I handed nothing to the attendant. I confess I felt a bit off afterwards and it made me think.

Was I to dispose of things that I needed and use every day?

Moreover, was the risk faced by one enough to override and create inconvenience, discomfort or loss to 179? Was this risk management effort a bit too heavy- handed?

This situation somehow reminded me of grade school — when naughty Billy got caught chewing gum in class, the teacher took all of our gum away. Even as a child I never understood the logic.

But the question remains, in situations like that, whose risk should been managed? Whose risk prevails? Whose rights are more important?

Is there a rule of thumb that can guide us as to which risk should override the other?

When faced with such a quandary, I always feel it is best to re-group and go back to basic principles and intention of good risk management — ensuring goal delivery and protection.

So, in this case, if the airline set a goal to ensure all passengers experienced a safe and comfortable flight, I suspect the peanut-snatching approach gave discomfort to many and hence undermined that goal.

But if the airline set a goal to ensure “14B with the peanut allergy” had a peanut-free, safe and comfortable flight, the risk management measures were appropriate.

This situation made me further think of our new socio-medical dilemma that’s brewing.

With the resurgence of measles and other previously controlled or vanquished infectious diseases, should we mix vaccinated children with non-vaccinated children in classrooms? Whose risk prevails?

Whose rights are more important — the risk borne by the few unvaccinated children, or that of the whole class?

Parents who choose not to vaccinate argue that it is their right not to vaccinate. But their decision can make their child a potential source of infection, endangering their community and cause the potential return of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Advertisement




Is it incumbent on parents of vaccinated children to accommodate non-vaccinators?

I recognize that a well-functioning society requires us to routinely recalibrate our competing interests and risks.

But I also feel that we can’t lose sight of the rudimentary risk management principles of goal protection and assurance.

What goal as a society are we trying to protect? The welfare of one or of the many?

Let’s hear it from the peanut gallery.

Share this article:

Column: Risk Management

A Betrayal of Trust

By: | May 6, 2015 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

As part of my business management training, I took executive leadership courses. I lean on information from one course in particular every day. The course was entitled: Trust.

As a class, we debated the idea of trust and the importance of building trust with staff and within our organizations.

A question was posed: How does one build trust with another person specifically? Answers flew around the class: One needs to show integrity, be likeable, be good, to care, to listen, to acknowledge others. All the answers didn’t seem quite right.

Advertisement




The instructor interjected: “Trust is built when one demonstrates painfully consistent behavior.”

You don’t have to like someone to trust them. Take Mr. Grumpy-Pants who sits next to you in the office, who is gloomy and unpleasant every day. He may drag you down, but you probably can count on him. As opposed to Ms. Two-Face, who is sweet one day while the next she is stabbing you in the back. Hard to feel steady and trust her next move.

Trust problems cannot be solved by applying more technology. Trust issues are solved by actively building trust — starting with trust between pilots and their airlines.

Think of people you have difficulty trusting. Likely, it is because of their unsteady, unexpected or inconsistent behavior. Their surprising volatility impedes your ability to trust them.

This idea of trust has been front-of-mind for me lately. I write this column six days following the incomprehensible loss of 150 people on Germanwings flight 4U9525.

I watched hours of news footage that attempted to reveal what may have transpired that tragic day. Initially, the hours of analyses resulted in suggestions of increased safety measures to remove the risk of such an event ever occurring again. New technical measures were recommended including pilotless planes, remote aviation ability and flight-deck video surveillance.

Then, panel experts debated “failures” in aviation processes and safety systems including the flight deck door — a door system that was purposely redesigned post-911 to protect at all costs the most important people on the plane, the pilots.

It was suggested that the flight deck door safety system failed because the co-pilot was able to take advantage of the known impenetrability of the door to help perpetrate his plan. This insinuation bothered me on many levels.

Safety systems have goals. The design of a safety system starts with the question: What are we trying to protect? The flight deck door was designed to protect the pilots from unwanted intruders so they can do what we trusted them to do. Safely fly the plane.

The door system on the Germanwings flight did not fail. It behaved as it was designed. A redesign of the flight deck door will not reduce the risk of another pilot murder-suicide. The aviation regulator’s new requirement that at least two crew members remain in the flight deck at all times may add a new barrier but gives no guarantee.

Advertisement




The failure here was that of the co-pilot. He was in the position of utmost, blind trust for passengers. He deeply betrayed that privilege, a privilege bestowed on him by so many people. He failed; the safety systems did not.

Our interdependence with others forces our need for continued trust. Trust problems cannot be solved by applying more technology. Trust issues are solved by actively building trust — starting with trust between pilots and their airlines. If we are to revisit anything to improve risk and safety, let’s ensure there is trust — painfully consistent organizational behaviors that make flight crews truly feel safe to self-declare problems if need be. In that I trust.

Share this article:

Column: Risk Management

Google the Spy

By: | April 8, 2015 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

I’ve known for a while that giants like Google tracked me — information on my location, my web activity, my music choices. I’ve known they troll my emails looking for keywords for targeting advertisements and services. Quite frankly, trolling goes beyond Google. Every store I shop at seems to send me emails luring me to a purchase. Nowadays, right or wrong, this type of tracking has become par for the course.

As creepy as it all is, data mining is supposed to be done under the guise of “innocent” consumer profiling that ultimately provides us with customized support.

Advertisement




On the whole, I love my Google-driven Android smartphone and the support features it offers — truly brilliant in many ways. The premise of using my information to “help” me didn’t use to bother me at all.

In fact, the thought of someone trying to design an algorithm that reflects my ever-changing consumption habits and interests actually made me chuckle.

So it all seemed acceptable because I thought my smartphone was only being used to spy on me. I was the only one involved. I was the one taking the risk.

Over the years, I have amassed a lot of business contacts. I have diligently kept their contact information via Microsoft Outlook. Recently, I uploaded that contact list to my smartphone using the Google Contacts app. I now have access to all of my contacts’ information when I am mobile.

But what happened next floored me. After a few days, likely after Google got a chance to chew on all this new delicious information, my phone started to regurgitate things back at me.

Spying on me is one thing, spying on my business colleagues and friends is another. The thought that I may have inadvertently put my colleagues at risk sickens me.

I received stock-ticker feeds of companies where my contacts work, and for companies with similar names to those where my contacts work. I also got travel suggestions based on my contacts’ addresses and news articles that referenced contact names, or those similar to my contacts. And I got solicitation emails from persons using names from my contact list.

I no longer feel as neutral about Google’s mining activities. Spying on me is one thing, spying on my business colleagues and friends is another. The thought that I may have inadvertently put my colleagues at risk sickens me.

Exploiting my business community without their express consent is just wrong, especially today where cyber security risks run rampant, where organizations spend billions protecting their networks and information, and where we are tirelessly putting in place safeguards around managing risks associated with remote access or unauthorized activity with client information. It is irresponsible.

Our collective goal should be to protect all of our clients, and keep their information safe and away from the risk of exploitation and misuse. The convenience of using applications like Google Contacts is to serve my clients better, not to breach their values. Google saw opportunity but handed me risk.

Advertisement




Since then, I have searched the bowels of Google’s account settings, looking for that elusive check box to disallow this silliness. After a few days’ search, there it was: “Use my Google contact information to suggest accounts from other sites.” Uncheck.

I have since written to Google regarding this experience and the irony in their auto-reply was almost amusing: “We value every piece of feedback we receive … we will use your comments as we strive to improve your Google experience.”

Share this article: