Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Risk Management, Own Goals and Kieran Gibb's Left Leg



Own goals are annoying. As Kieran Gibbs stuck out a foot and ruined my weekend on Saturday evening it occurred to me that fate was against my beloved Arsenal FC. Because even when the cross cum shot hit his errant shinbone, it could have gone anywhere. It was fate that stuck it in the far corner and shoved us on our way to ignominious defeat.

Risk management is an undervalued skill in modern business. It does tend to get lost in the general tedium of processes and procedures, all of which are really designed to prevent something. For instance, I personally loath the culture of excessive health and safety. It is ridiculous that some schools ban their pupils from playing conkers, for example. However, at the core of it all, someone is just trying to prevent unnecessary accidents. (Mind you, is there such a thing as a necessary accident?)

Any business needs to try and remove fate from the equation. ‘Management’ should never trust to luck and hope that our left back won’t bump into the goalkeeper and still be getting up when the ball is heading his way. So a lot of people in little offices spend a lot of time and money trying to avoid the avoidable. It makes sense.

We end up with procedures for everything. And most of them have a flow chart somewhere. Every option and decision has been considered and as long as we stick to the procedures everything will turn out fine. In Arsenal’s case, if our Polish goalkeeper and English left back had managed to shout at each other, thus preventing a collision, Manchester United would never have been handed a one nil lead on a plate. Dear Kieran would then not have spent the rest of the game playing as a shadow centre forward, leaving behind him a gap so huge even Wayne Rooney managed to scamper through to score a second. Yes, we let a man who allegedly looks like Donkey from the Shrek movies score. It certainly turned me a nice shade of green! (And yes, I am bitter. Very.)

The simple fact is human beings do not always follow procedures. Fate sometimes takes a hand but more often than not we think we can cut a corner here or there. Maybe to save five minutes, or maybe because we think we know best. And nowhere is this human trait more obvious than in the disposal of old equipment. (Yes, you knew I would get back on topic sooner or later, but I am not finished with Arsenal yet, believe me. Not by a long chalk.)

There are rules, laws even, and therefore there are procedures which should be followed, or should be. In big companies, and especially in any businesses which are closely regulated, such as lawyers, accountants and medical institutions, ignoring the risks is insane. But people do it all the time.

I am relatively new to this lark, but it already does my head in. Not quite as much as watching Arsenal self destruct, but it is getting there. Why would anyone risk a big fine and possible ruin by letting any old Wayne, Robin or Angel De Flipping Maria take away their old IT equipment? Of course they said they will do it properly and at the wonderful price of FREE! 
Who could resist such a deal because the only risk you have is 2% of your global turnover, severe brand damage and an extremely large dent in your own personal career!

We charge a bit for mileage plus 85p a kilo to collect assorted kit (a bit more if it is hazardous) and charge £5 per hard disk to erase all the data and provide you with all the paperwork you could ever want. More than Wayne Rooney could ever want to read that is for sure. Then, if your kit is re-saleable, we will sell it and after our costs, share the proceeds with you. That is peanuts.

So, to use a reputable, properly accredited IT recycling specialist will cost you a little bit, but you will have followed the letter of the law and have the paperwork to prove it. As Harry Potter said when he was finished with the magical marauders map of Hogwarts, ‘mischief managed’. That is risk management in a nutshell, all done and dusted.

It is what any half decent process will tell you to do. Get a decent supplier, check that they do it all properly and get it done. It’s not rocket science. So why do so many people ignore commonsense and use the first person that says they can do it for nothing?

So, do me a favour. Consider managing your own risks, regardless of your size. And if you are Wojciech Szczęsny, next time you come for a cross, please call very loudly to prevent accidents. Preferably in English so that Kieran definitely gets it...