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Joanna Makomaski

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Column: Risk Management

Service Is Value

By: | September 15, 2014 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Those who know me in the risk management industry know that I am a real stickler when it comes to using vague words or terminology. Ironically, my word obsession first started when I explored the true meaning of the word risk.

We use this word everywhere in our industry but do we really understand what it truly means? Moreover, do we in the industry all use the word consistently and with the same intention?

How is value derived from your risk management programs? I recall an expression that resonated with me: “Value is created by being of service.”

Another choice nebulous word that often makes me crazy is the word, safe. Honestly, what does that mean? To add to continued aggravation, a new word recently made me pause — the word is value. My word definition quest started when someone asked me: What value was my risk management program providing? It is a fair question, but if only I truly knew what it meant.

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An accountant sees value as the monetary worth of something. Economists view value as the utility of something and its power of trade. Marketers understand value through the eyes of the consumer and their perception of the worth of something.

So, how do risk managers recognize value? How is value derived from your risk management programs? I recall an expression that resonated with me: “Value is created by being of service.”

Think about an item or service that you own that you simply couldn’t live without. I think of my smartphone. It is my portable email, calendar, music system, calculator, flashlight, etc. — and let’s not forget, my mobile phone too. This gadget truly serves me and without question, I truly value it. Value in this case is a measure of the sheer size of the hole it would leave if I lost it.

In much the same way, risk management must serve an organization in an essential way for it to truly be of value.

Imagine having a program that forces the clear articulation of an organization’s strategy and goals. Which brings forward intelligence that enables more sophisticated operational and strategic decisions that can drive optimized and sustained performance.

Information that was derived from the program allows an organization to become more agile and respond more quickly. This allows an organization to avoid unwanted situations or seize opportunities before its competition does. What a program. What a service. What value.

This is the value of a solid enterprise risk management program.

An enterprise risk management (ERM) program creates a neutral centralized line-of-sight to risks and issues. This consistent rendition and single source of truth around sensitive risk issues allows the organization to avoid confusion or misinterpretation of risk events with stakeholders.

The risk intelligence created by an ERM program helps to defend the allocation of scarce resources on risk management activities.

By having a logical and consistent means of understanding risks, the organization can more easily defend its decisions around investments in risk response activities and its allocation of scarce resources.

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Also, by centralizing decisions around risk management activities, the ERM program forces governing entities to truly recognize their organization’s risk position.

By making centralized decisions around which risk controls to institutionalize, leaders can examine and follow a collective, not individual, risk appetite or tolerance for risk and protect their shareholders.

That is what I call valuable service. But I guess the best way to measure if your ERM program is truly valuable, is by seeing how many people would miss it if it was gone.

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Column: Risk Management

Smart But Rude

By: | September 2, 2014 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Can you name five things that drive you absolutely crazy when it comes to people and their smart phones? Allow me to kick, or rather, tick things off.

One, you are interviewing for a new job. It is a panel interview. You notice two of your interviewers reading their email on their smart phone in the middle of your interview.

Two, you are at a wedding at a glorious church. You see invited guests texting during the ceremony.

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Three, you and a work colleague are having a serious discussion and mid-conversation they pulled out their smart phone to respond to an e-mail.

Four, your date takes a call on your first date.

Five, you see a friend continuously checking their smart phone for messages during your dinner party.

Do these things drive you absolutely batty? Who feels like grabbing those phones and dumping them into a toilet at moments like that? How rude.

But before we cast the first stone, let’s be honest. At some point or another, we, the self-righteous have all been guilty of phubbing aka “phone snubbing” – ignoring someone in a social or work setting and focusing on your phone instead of paying attention. Phubbing is anti-social behavior and very ironic – our powerful multicommunicating social networking devices are enabling anti-social behavior.

Is phubbing becoming toxic to our community life? Breeding incivility on our business world?

At some point or another, we, the self-righteous have all been guilty of phubbing aka “phone snubbing” – ignoring someone in a social or work setting and focusing on your phone instead of paying attention.

Are we losing our ability to pay attention to people sitting right in front of us? By virtue of having to use multicommunicating devices at work, are businesses fueling the institutionalization of rudeness?

Is such incivility breeding a more serious business risk?

Jane Webster, a professor at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, and Ann-Frances Cameron, an associate professor at business school HEC Montreal, studied the business impacts of multicommunication. Their study notes that multicommunicating is not the same as multitasking. Rather than juggling tasks, we are juggling people.

We have to be sensitive to that difference. Some find the practice insulting and people who tend to focus on one task are likely to get offended very quickly. Such discourtesy affects feelings of trust and can compromise working relationships.

Consider how off-putting it is when you are asked to repeat yourself because someone was distracted by their phones. The study further notes that it is important to know how the people you work with like to communicate and gauge what is acceptable in different corporate cultures.

Additional research from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business indicates that “older professionals and those with higher incomes are far more likely to think it is inappropriate to be checking text messages or emails during meetings of any kind.”

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So the odds are that we are risking our future rise in an organization by annoying the majority of ours senior bosses and colleagues with inappropriate smartphone use in meetings. We are openly demonstrating lack of respect, attention, listening skills and lack of control when we respond to the chime of our phone like a Pavlovian dog.

Some companies are now introducing conference rooms as “Smartphone Free Zone” or have a basket or container at the entrance of the room where meeting participants are to leave their phones at the door. The very thought of parting with their phone may cause some participants to go into full body convulsions but in many ways it could be for their own good.

As Simone Weil wrote: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

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Column: Risk Management

Upward Bullying

By: | August 4, 2014 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Recently, I had coffee with an old work colleague. He had started a new senior management job for a manufacturing company about a year and half prior. I almost did not recognize him when he walked into the coffee shop. He looked tired, resigned and truly depressed. I could not believe this was the same vivacious leader that I once worked with.

I asked how things were going at his “new” job. Almost as though he was embarrassed, he told me his story.

He said he was struggling. He was dealing with a veteran employee that clearly had sought his job prior to his arrival. To date, the veteran had not reconciled the fact that he did not get the role. This employee has been with the organization for more than 26 years.

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Since my friend’s arrival at the company, this employee has challenged and undermined him. The employee pushed other employees to deliberately not meet my friend’s deadlines, undermine his meeting agendas and act disrespectfully.

When my friend tried to manage these behaviors, his efforts seemed to only make things worse. The group, through the encouragement of the ringleader, filed false complaints about my friend to human resources. Some of the allegations were quite serious and difficult to disprove.

When the complaints were investigated, my friend found himself trying to defend unfounded he-said/she-said allegations. He told me that HR gave too much credence to these allegations. As a new manager, he felt he had little protection from his own employees’ intimidating and bullying tactics.

He felt alone. He did not share his feelings with higher management as he believed that admitting he was struggling to control his own staff was admitting failure. He wanted to impress senior management and assert himself in his new workplace. But instead, the whole experience was giving him bouts of anxiety, sleeplessness and shaken confidence. He now was thinking of resigning.

I was so struck by his story. We tend to perceive intimidating behaviors as moving only downward, where a person of authority victimizes a junior person. But clearly, managers can be targets of troubling behaviors in the workplace on the part of their own subordinates. Colloquially, this behavior has been known as “boss bashing;” experts now call it “upward bullying.”

Upward bullying is attracting increased attention as organizations realize the risks attached to the toxic effects this behavior has on an organization’s culture, morale and productivity.

The reality is that most companies will always have groups of lax employees whose performance is under scrutiny. Or they will have pockets of resentful staff who have been denied promotions or pay raises. These employees may retaliate by abusing their managers or filing false complaints against them.

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Does your organization pay attention to this risk? Are policies in place to protect the safety and welfare of the leaders who are there to drive success in your business?

The costs associated with upward bullying can be substantial. Consider how much time and energy is dedicated to addressing false allegations, the increased absenteeism of line managers, the overall effect of undermined leadership and the compromised ability of leaders to push an organization to achieve its objectives.
Bottom line, we clearly need stronger risk mitigation and support systems that defend employees at all the ranks of an organization.

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