Risk Management Article

Steven Ouellette’s picture

By: Steven Ouellette

What is the most important thing for your business to be working on right now? Would everyone else working there agree? Is everyone working toward the business’s goals? How do you know?

Most businesses in my experience cannot answer these questions. There may be metrics, but they are not translated down to individual contributors or integrated with each other. They may be incomplete. Management may announce every year that this is the year we are all going to work on profit, or customer satisfaction, or some metric they read about in an article, but they never translate what that means for individuals, and nothing seems to change. There is often an idea that we should be doing something as a business, but different opinions as to what that might be. There is internal competition rather than cooperation.

You need a process to not only be able to answer these questions, but also to answer them with data. Everyone in the company needs to be able to show how they contribute to the organization’s goals.

Philippe Aghion’s picture

By: Philippe Aghion

Imagine a ship at sea, at risk of sinking in a tempest. Is it better to empower the crew to do whatever it takes to save the ship, or should every decision be made by the captain and top officers? Similarly, what should the optimal form of firm organization be during a severe downturn? The need to make tough decisions—including layoffs—may favor firms that concentrate power at the top. However, the turbulence and fast-shifting conditions magnify the value of the information held by local managers.

The two views can be compelling. Indeed, in the depths of the Great Recession of 2009, a survey of executives by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit revealed that decision-making had become more centralized in the C-suite. The rationale: to emphasize “projects that provide benefits across the enterprise rather than individual units.” But in another report three months earlier, the same publication argued that “companies have to deal with dramatically more uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in the current recession. Success does not come from centralization.”

So who should be in charge: the crew or the captain?

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are common in industrial and manufacturing environments. Despite this, failure to adequately train employees on LOTO procedures continues to be one of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) top 10 most frequently cited violations during federal inspections.

To write an effective LOTO procedure requires both an understanding of OSHA’s guidelines, as well as good communication and training practices. By combining these strategies, manufacturing companies can ensure the health and safety of their workforce while maintaining operational efficiency.

Matthew Bundy’s picture

By: Matthew Bundy

Untitled Document


Burning plastic cart carrying a fax machine, a laptop computer, and a three-ring binder. Click here for larger image. Credit: FCD/NIST

Several centuries ago, scientists discovered oxygen while experimenting with combustion and flames. One scientist called it “fire air.” Today, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we continue to measure oxygen to study the behavior of fires.

Zach Winn’s picture

By: Zach Winn

These days businesses have enough to worry about without thinking about their insurance. Unfortunately, tasks like managing insurance claims and completing annual renewals require a lot of thinking.

The startup Newfront Insurance is seeking to modernize the industry with digital tools that simplify insurance processes for brokers and businesses. The company’s platform automates tedious administrative processes for brokers while streamlining a number of repetitive tasks that have traditionally taken up customers’ time and headspace.

“More than half of a broker’s day is filled with administrative work—filling out forms, data entry, following up with underwriters—stuff they don’t like and they’re not very good at,” Newfront co-founder and CTO Gordon Wintrob says. “If you look at the rest of a broker’s day, it’s this really high-value consulting work where they’re understanding what clients are thinking about, what they care about, what the growth prospects are for the next one, three, and five years, and helping them grapple with the challenges they’re facing.”

NordVPN Teams’s picture

By: NordVPN Teams

According to Gartner, 99 percent of the vulnerabilities exploited in 2020 have been ones known about by security and IT professionals at the time of the incident. However, taking care of them is tiresome, as it takes 38 days to implement a patch and in the past year alone 12,174 new common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) were reported.

Software vendors are constantly publishing patches to fix identified problems, but the users themselves are responsible for the updates. Failing to install them leaves the back door open for cyber criminals who can utilize it for a breach.

Richard Harpster’s picture

By: Richard Harpster

As someone who has helped companies in a wide variety of industries for the last 30 years solve many problems using risk-based thinking, I cannot think of an issue that I have worked on that is more important than preventing the spread of Covid-19. With three high-risk people in my home, I have spent considerable time studying Covid-19 since February 2020. By applying the risk-based thinking techniques I have used, I believe there is a method for saving 100,000 lives before we get the protection the new vaccines are going to provide during the next three or four months.

Bahar Aliakbarian’s picture

By: Bahar Aliakbarian

The two major U.S. developers of the early Covid-19 vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They both developed mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine. A major supply-chain issue is the temperature requirement for these vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at between –112° F (–80° C) and –94° F (–70° C), and the Moderna vaccine needs temperatures around –4° F (–20° C), which is close to the temperature of commercial-grade freezers. A third company developing vaccines, AstraZeneca, says it needs regular refrigeration temperature of 36° F to 46° F, or 2° to 8° C.

Multiple Authors
By: Thomas Malnight, Ivy Buche

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted different responses from company CEOs seeking to ensure their businesses survive. Keeping their employees safe has been the first priority, but beyond that, their task has involved understanding the situation, launching countermeasures, and trying to evolve ways of working to ensure their businesses can continue.

We spoke to the chief executives of three major companies in three very different industries. In their responses to the crisis, we found that Winston Churchill’s adage, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” was as relevant as ever, with businesses finding positives during the pandemic.

Accelerate strategy

Shipping giant A.P. Moller - Maersk embarked on an historic transformation in 2016 to become an integrated transport and logistics company—combining its shipping line, port operations, and freight forwarding businesses into a single entity. However, progress had been limited.

Tim Waldo’s picture

By: Tim Waldo

If you are like many small and medium-sized manufacturers, finding good help has been a pain point for many years, and it has become even more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic. The market forces driving that dynamic are not likely to change soon.

Your shop has had to become more adaptive and responsive in operations during this uncertainty, facing many challenges but also opportunities. You can take a similar approach to hiring and developing your people. The same principles that apply to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement in production processes also apply to recruiting, management, and performance of people. If you could improve your system, you can improve your performance.

What is systems thinking?

Systems thinking is a toolkit, or a type of language that describes how systems interact through various connections and feedback. Systems thinking is a holistic way to see connections through:
• Feedback loops
• Relationships (direct and indirect)
• Interactions and influences
• Systems within systems

Barry Richmond was a leader in the fields of systems thinking and system dynamics. He emphasized that people embracing systems thinking position themselves so that they can see both the forest and the trees, with one eye on each.

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