Asleep at the wheel-Outdated assumptions and current threats

Is my assessment still relevant?

Despite countless events and incentives to change, a startling number of companies are still behind the business curve with regards to their risk management. In much the same way a train travels on a set track that has been planned, surveyed, laid and maintained for predictable routes between key locations it doesn’t permit for deviation or adaptability. Given a large enough obstacle it can even be derailed, damaging the train, goods, passengers and requiring major repairs before service is returned. Shareholder value may be affected and the reputation of the company called into question. While the business demands swift and timely movement between locations, the business decision making process is likely to be much slower than the business operation.

Enterprise resilience is a relatively new term and still foreign to most. Outdated risk management structures are functional silos of threat identification, budgets, management and risk mitigation with higher than average potential for duplication, wastage and blind spots not covered by the functional departments or managers. The people overseeing the strategy or implementing the objectives may also be inexperienced or lack authority to encompass all the necessary business aspects.

To further frustrate the process is the human trait that ensures the longer one is exposured to a situation, activity or location results in complacency or diminished ability to identify emerging risks. We have seen this in action most recently with companies operating in Thailand. Despite repeated and almost obvious changes in the situation across the country, but more so in the capital Bangkok, thousands of people and hundreds of companies were taken totally unawares when protesters blocked streets, business environment altered, airports closed and open violence on the streets. The situation was largely predictable and measured preparedness and planning would have negated any major disruption or continuity issues. Thanks to the legacy emotion of Thailand being a “great place” companies almost refuse to accept the new status and many have dismissed the past events as “isolated” and still remain vulnerable to what is the new order until resolution is evident. A similar situation is emerging in Malaysia at present. With a large foreign investment, multinational headquarters, expatriate placements and active international travel, the affects of the changing state in Malaysia will have similar impact on companies and personnel. The signs are there; rule of law, emergency services, crime, religious fragmentation, social unrest, health crisis and financial division are not easily remedied and constitute a here-and-now threat that must be mitigated accordingly.

Enterprise resilience begins at the top. If your board, C-suite or executive leadership is not engaged, the process is doomed from the outset. If the identification and preparation for threats are not inclusive of the enterprise and a representative counsel, the results will be similarly weak. Modern management and competitive advantage lays with those that are hard-wired to the assets and issues in parallel. To know what constitutes value, and the priority to the business along with emerging and dynamic incident surveillance rounded out with a replicatable and efficient decision making process will ensure survival of the fittest. This is an even more poignant issue for those with there manufacturing, management, back office processing or supply lines in developing economies where even the most basic of enterprise resilience strategies are specks on the horizon and not perceived to be an economic imperative. The vehicle is in motion, its speed increasing and the business may be depending on you as the designated driver. The question is, are you asleep at the wheel?

About Tony Ridley
Travel health, safety, security and risk management expert.

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