In much of the enterprise risk management literature, the focus is on creating technical tools. It is easy to find numerous ERM frameworks and presentations on how to quantify risks. However, the skills required to sell this new risk solution within the organization and to address the resistance to change are rarely mentioned. Getting ERM adopted at the upper levels of management, as well as operational levels, is a serious challenge.
Fortunately, these challenges are not unique to risk management. Being able to influence disparate groups is a valuable skill in any organization, especially when one does not have formal authority. Because this is such a ubiquitous issue, many solutions have been developed to address it.
For a risk professional looking to gain support for a new initiative, there is a wide array of resources available to increase the chances of success. One of the most effective is a mentor. Some companies have formal mentoring programs, but even if yours does not, you still can develop a mentoring relationship. Having someone who understands the organization to help you navigate the terrain is invaluable.
If a mentor can't be found, a good business coach, especially one with knowledge of your organization, can be a great help. A coach not only understands the skills needed to navigate the organizational landscape, but he can also perfect one's finer interpersonal skills. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is driven by the almost imperceptible communication skills that a coach can help hone. When learning a new skill, having someone to point out where you need more work is exceedingly helpful.
Coaches, however, can be quite expensive, and only a few companies will pay for this service. Not to worry, though. There are many good books written about developing one's influence, communicating and navigating the corporate landscape. Sue McKnight's book "NLP at Work" provides a very clear and comprehensive explanation of the skills needed to establish rapport with others and to influence their beliefs. Lucy Freidman has also created an effective system called Syntax and provides classes and coaching services.
In addition, "Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge" by Geoffrey M. Bellman is perfect for addressing attempts to implement ERM without a "letter from the king." An equally helpful book is "Influence Without Authority" by Allan Cohen and David Bradford.
Good ideas should be recognized and immediately adopted by the company. But that is not the reality. Companies are made up of people with their own agendas, beliefs, biases and comfort zones. No matter how logical the proposed changes or projects are, there will be some level of resistance to change. Having the skills to overcome this resistance takes time and effort, but is necessary for success.
ERM is a new concept and one that challenges the way most companies do business. While ERM most often focuses on the frameworks and methods of implementation, there is more to creating a successful program than simply building a better mousetrap. Interpersonal skills and change management are the other half of the solution and the one most often overlooked. It is not enough to merely build a better mousetrap; you have to know how to sell it as well.
BEAUMONT VANCE manages risk for Sun Microsystems Inc.
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July 1, 2007
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