Avoiding using jargon to get your risk management message across

KEEPING IT slick and simple (KISS) and avoiding using jargon are the key strategies for getting the risk management message across, according to a recent survey of private and public sector risk practitioners. The survey by Liz Taylor Risk Consulting also concluded that risk management as a profession is maturing fast.

The purpose of the survey was to find out what risk practitioners thought were the main barriers to implementing risk management in their organisations. The results were overwhelmingly conclusive. Whilst the process of risk management in itself is OK, in order to succeed risk management has to show some sort of value or pay back. What was most surprising was that there is still a lot of confusion between strategic risk management which is about all the risks to the organisation and operational risk management which is individual pockets of risk like health and safety.

Nearly three quarters of the 69 respondents said that they were using opportunity and threat as components of risk to show the value of risk management. This was convincing evidence of a growing maturity within the risk management profession.

Of the most difficult aspects of risk management, ranking risk was considered to be the trickiest, followed by identifying and articulating the real risk and getting controls that make a real difference.

Interestingly, those who saw problems with linking actions from the risk process with other systems like performance management were in the minority. It was also thought that getting people to use risk management as a dynamic tool was not as difficult as other areas of risk.

It seems also that the public sector and private sector risk practitioners are neck and neck in terms of their maturity of approach, there being no discernable difference between their responses.

The survey asked some probing questions about the process itself and whether it is too complicated. In the data, there was no particular message either way, but in the text responses more than a third of the responses talked about a definite need for risk practitioners to kiss a lot (keep it slick and simple), and to avoid using jargon. One responder said: ‘Risk management boils down to three key questions. (1) What will success look like? (2) What are the barriers to achieving this success (and ranking them)? (3) What measures can you take to overcome these barriers?’

Liz Taylor (who some AIRMIC members will remember is a former chairman of the association) said; ‘At Liz Taylor Risk Consulting we take the view that implementing risk management is a bit like riding a horse. You can be a skilled rider, eventer and all round horsey expert, but if the horse is not ready to take the jumps you may need to adjust your expectations for a time until you have trained together. ‘Risk practitioners need to keep it slick and simple for the time being and adjust their methods according to the maturity of the part of the organisation that they are working with.’