donderdag 7 december 2017


In the first of a new regular column, Arend van Campen of TankTerminalTraining emphasises the importance of teamwork
When a football team wants to win the championship it will spend a lot of time, many hours per week, preparing for the next game. This is what training is. The team needs to form a strong connection, unity and cohesion to operate as a machine; in systems thinking terms, this would be a system that constantly improves itself.
The training programmes use feedback as a method of controlling a system by re-inserting into it the results of past performance, which in fact is called learning. The team then functions as a living system, adjusting to opponents, adapting to circumstance and always learning from its environment in order to stay flexible, resourceful and finally victorious.
TankTerminalTraining (TTT) incorporates a similar line of thinking in its training programmes and this improves the overall results dramatically. In order to understand how systems operate and survive in real life we always ask this question: how would you behave if you were stranded alone on an island?’ This usually starts up a new way of self-reflection and from that starting point TTT focuses on commitment, awareness, knowledge, skill and – ultimately –  wisdom. There is a saying: ‘a wise person comes prepared’ and from that idea onward training towards a winning team proves its value in making people better at what they do.
In management terms it is important to remember that “rules and regulations impair an organisation’s functioning”.  What this means is that unthinking compliance to rules or regulations can jeopardise the individual’s powers of reason, with compliance just becoming a matter of ticking off a checklist. But people do have reason, as well as their self-esteem, their caution and their prudence as natural survival mechanisms. All they have to realise is that they are actually on that island where they have no other means but to train themselves by saying aloud: S.T.O.P!  S: Stop! Where am I? T: Think! Who am I and what can I do? O: Observe! What is available? P: Plan! Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 to survive!
Learning and using these four simple words would prevent many incident or accidents, but people need to be taught first to understand themselves. TTT is not just training and educating people on technical or operational matters, because as you are probably aware 80 per cent of incidents and accidents happen due to human factors. TTT understands that a winning team can only be created by training them physically and mentally.
The metaphor we like to use is to form a tank terminal orchestra where melody and harmony can only be produced by the cooperation of all the musicians. These musicians need their personal motivation to learn how to play their instruments well. TTT has noticed that management does not always emphasise individual responsibility. Sometimes, when TTT asks the question “Are you in control, really in control?” the answer is not convincing; “Don’t ask me. I just work here!”
When this is the case, the operation of the terminal may be vulnerable despite the growing mass of rules, regulations and checklists. People are the terminal! Behaviour and information decide the sustainability of the business model, so have people learn all the time and win!

This is the first in a new series of articles by Arend van Campen, founder of TankTerminalTraining. More information on the company’s activities can be found at

Sustainability (Column in HCB Magazine)

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, tweeted recently: ‘Wake up world. We are killing our planet. Climate Action now!’ He meant that our economy, industries and politics are not exactly cooperative in regard to changing pace and curbing climate change in time to avoid entropy and ultimately chaos. The way our banks use algorithms to outpace human trade drives everything else towards maximum financialisation, literally using up future resources for the sake of profits now. This obviously cannot last and, according to recent article in the New York Times, jeopardises humanity’s very survival.
As a researcher on what can be sustainable, durable and can be continued, I developed a method to measure sustainability. This valuable tool allows an organisation able to predict the future and therefore can adjust its course timely. As I am writing this for you, readers of HCB magazine, I’d like to propose that you apply this tool to your company’s products and services and ask yourself if they are negatively or positively interdependent. This means that products or services that would benefit a few at the cost of others (people, environment, etc), should be redesigned, reworked or replaced by those that are positively interdependent, meaning they are useful and sustainable for everyone and everything. This, in my view, would create millions of jobs and would benefit politics, economics, the environment and repair the ecological balance on which we all depend. Path dependency of an organisation means that products and services which may be harmful are not changed voluntarily, but often await laws to prevent them. I agree with António that it is too late for that.
Two weeks ago I spoke to the renowned physicist Dr Fritjof Capra in Innsbruck and he said that organisations that are unwilling to learn and adapt are dead. Biology confirms that an organism that is unable to learn from and interact with its environment can be declared dead because it has stopped metabolising.
Looking for example at companies or politicised organisations we can observe that they are often ‘path dependent’. Inflexible entities that are unable to learn, adapt and adjust to constantly renewing variations created from interaction with people, environment, planet or universe, cannot survive. This is a scientific fact.
How to proceed? Well, there is ample information and science. All such organisations have to do is to start listening by weighing ‘all’ information, even that information which would contradict ulterior motivation towards pre-planned and expected goals. Life in business or in politics can only be continued and remain sustainable by asking ‘where to now? and by learning everything that will be useful to ensure their systems stays afloat.
The Greeks were right over 2000 years ago. They accepted that you can only sail a ship to the other side of the seas if you prepare well and are open to learn from the wind, water and tide. Antonio realises that people are not listening. Perhaps his tweets, and this column, are read by 190 UN member countries, but are they alive or nearing death?
This is the third in a new series of articles by Arend van Campen, founder of TankTerminalTraining. More information on the company’s activities can be found Those interested in following up his invitation can contact him directly at

woensdag 25 oktober 2017

Information reduces Uncertainty

Last month I talked about teams and feedback. The last two weeks I have been working in south-east Africa teaching and training petroleum people how to build a safety culture. Much has been written on HSE but, as far as I am aware, cybernetics has not yet been applied as a useful tool for governance.
Risk prevention and risk management are methods to control risks, but often do not consider the cybernetical law of requisite variety or philosophical solutions such as a science of ethics. To prevent and control HSE risks, we have to first know ourselves. Who am I? How do I react? How do I communicate? These so-called ‘Human Factors’ are, in my opinion, insufficiently explored and understood. In Africa we spoke about narcissism, arrogance, recklessness and other human character traits and concluded that they are always dependent on the interaction with others. On an island alone, people would not have much use for such traits.
Let me first explain the Law of Requisite Variety, which was proposed by Ross Ashby in 1956. ‘A situation can only be controlled if the variety of the controller matches the variety of the situation to be controlled.’ It is impossible to prepare for every variable so most variety is absorbed through relationships with other systems. Only Variety can absorb Variety.
Every organisation generates tremendous variety and tries to control it in its own way through HSEQ rules, checklists or regulations. Human variety, environmental variety, social variety, regulatory variety change all the time and therefore cannot be controlled. A company is a living system and needs to maintain and develop sufficient internal variety to be able to absorb (counter-balance) ‘outside’ variety. This means training people to have the combined knowledge, experience, expertise, will and influence to do so.
For HSE or risk management, only enough variety in your system can absorb, or control HSE risks originating from the outside and also the internal variety.
What an organisation can do is to insist that ‘all’ information is centralised and made available. Often management does not or cannot hear (or listen to) what is going on, because the company is managed in a top-down manner. But, as the title of this column shows, information is anything that reduces uncertainty and, next to energy and matter, it is the way our universe operates.
The solution therefore to maximise risk prevention or risk management is to make sure that all the parts of the system (the organisation) communicate constantly and are able to adapt to new situations. When outside variety changes, the organisation directly adjusts by learning and adding more counterbalancing knowledge, skills and wisdom.

This is a continuous process and can be managed by cybernetical steering of positive and negative feedback. It becomes a natural tool, not to manage or control HSE risks, but to prevent them,

maandag 18 september 2017

Building Drinking Water Terminals

About a year ago at the Storage Tanks conference in Rijswijk, Holland I spoke about the long term future of the tankterminal industry. I specifically mentioned that investing in the storage, provision, decontamination and distribution of clean, potable drinking water would be a future trend, not only from a sustainable world' perspective, but also it would make good business sense. The expected yield would be 3000 percent on investment (according the WTO).

Therefore I am herewith launching a new campaign called 'Drinking Water for All' and seek support and participation of all the players in the storage industry and shipping supply chain. I invite Liquid bulk and gas Traders, Storage Terminal Operators, Ship Owners, Governments, NGO's, Financial Institutions, Private Investors, etc. to help us use the existing infrastructure and add fresh / drinking water shore tanks, pipelines, jetties and other needed facilities at or near their terminals to make sure diseases such as Cholera or Dysentery can be avoided, but even more importantly to prevent future armed conflict which in fact would be bad for business.

The storage terminals brand name would be  'Water Terminals',  plain and simple!

donderdag 1 juni 2017

BBS; Behaviour Based Safety Course

Recently we were invited to give our modernised and upgraded BBS course for a client in Saudi-Arabia. We were much suprised that this method of learning was much better received than we had been anticipating. People were taught that behaviour, social circumstance, upbringing, character traits or attitudes are having impact on the safety culture within companies. 80 percent of incidents or accidents are statistically attributed to human behaviour. Because it was designed as a continuous learning process, management and staff were given the tools to use and build a safety culture by shared observation and correction of behaviour.

We would like to show you how the training program has been designed as follows:

Our Behaviour Based Safety and Human Factors Program focuses on the following:
1.    Safer work environment
2.    Frequency and severity of injuries decreases
3.    Safe behaviours increase
4.    At Risk behaviours decrease
5.    Staff participation in Total Safety Culture increases
6.    Reporting of near misses increases
7.    Acceptance of responsibility and accountability for safety increases

Program Day 1
Module 1
Human Behaviour: 5 types of risk behaviour – Why do we behave in a certain way?

a.    Conscious behaviour (on purpose)
b.    Habitual behaviour (we’ve always done it like that)
c.     Unintentional behaviour (unawareness or lack of knowledge or skill)
d.    Character Traits
e.    Behavior under authority
f.      Understanding Human Factors: cognition, psychology, physiology, social environment, authority, leadership, genetics, heritability, stress, fear, anxiety, social culture, etc.
g.    Domino effect by William Heinrich

Module 2
How to develop a Total Safety Culture?

a.      Exploring the BBS process and understanding pro’s and con’s
b.      Physical capability, experience & training, competence
c.       Work environment; engineering controls, equipment, job tasks, work culture, weather conditions, work climate, etc.

Program Day 2
Work Shop : BBS Tool Kit Implementation

Step 1 : Forming a design Team
Step 2 : Identify Critical Behaviour
Step 3 : Develop an observation checklist
Step 4 : Training the Observer / Coach
Step 5 : Identify and set improvement goals
Step 6 : Learning on behaviour based safety – using feedback loops
Step 7 : Measuring Success of Safety Culture
Writing a Mission Statement
Awarding attendance certificates

End of Training

maandag 8 mei 2017

Risk Blindness & Risk Management

Risk Blindness – a Roadblock to Sustainability


If you want senior management to pay attention give them something that challenges their focus - and understand that their focus is on the growth and sustainability of their business; not necessarily on compliance issues.  It is on business survivability – will we be in business tomorrow given the issues that we face today?  What is more important to your organization’s compliance with the myriad of regulations faced or where your competition will be coming from in the next five years?

Some definitions will help to form the basis for why we face a roadblock to sustainability and the potential crisis that leadership faces:

Risk Blindness: Looking at the parts not the whole, resulting in less precise measurement of risks.  This includes not recognizing risk, discounting risk and the influence of bias that precludes acknowledging risk.

Situational Compliance: Complying with regulatory standards, but not addressing the impact of risks.

Risk Velocity: how quickly one goes from the onset of the risk to the impact of the risk.  Understand the probability of loss, adjusted for the severity of its impact, and you have a sure-fire method for measuring risk.  "Risk Velocity" how quickly risks create loss events think about the concept is in terms of "time to impact" a military phrase.

Risk Parity: is an approach that focuses on the allocation of risk, usually defined by exposure, velocity and volatility rather than allocation of assets to the risk.  The risk parity approach asserts that when asset allocations are adjusted (leveraged or deleveraged) to the same risk level, risk parity is created resulting in more resistance to discontinuity events.  The principles of risk parity will be applied differently according to the risk appetite, goals and objectives of the organization and can yield different results for each organization over time.

Transparent Vulnerabilities: Transparent vulnerabilities are so obvious that they are easily overlooked; they are the ones we:

q  see when they are pointed out;
q  recognize when we are made aware of them;
q  often fail to acknowledge — leading to potentially significant consequences when the vulnerability is realized.

Examples of “transparent vulnerabilities” include:

q  Lack of depth in skill-sets within an organization.  This can lead to the realization of hidden chokepoints that create failure points within the business and/or governmental system.

q  Planning assumptions that are not validated.  Work-at-home, for example, is predicated on the assumption that the infrastructure is there to support work-at-home and often overlooks the fact that everyone is developing a work-at-home strategy.

q  Human reactions affecting decision-making.  Under stressful conditions, humans react differently, which affects decision-making.

Sustainability: the ability to add value to stakeholders today in such a way that one would also in the future add value to stakeholders, continuing relevance.

The thinking behind this definition is that sustainability requires reconciling current needs with future needs. This ties in with the particular competence of business leaders to design value creation to stakeholders in a systemic and evolving way.

The conflict between compliance and profitability can create upheaval in an organization, leading to reactive responses and diversion of attention instead of focusing on achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.  We can see the effect of this with organizations that are in compliance with the regulations for a given area, i.e., diesel fuel formulated for African standards that is out of compliance with European Union Standards, being manufactured in Europe and shipped to Africa.  Clearly compliance has been achieved, albeit selectively.  However, the question remains to what extent compliance? Does compliance cover the whole range of issues? Probably not.

Our colleague Horst Simon writes in a recent LinkedIn post, entitled: “Clarity from Chaos: Money, Change & Risk” published 19 January 2017:

Regulations, Cyber Crime, “The drop in the oil price” and Global Climate Change—paranoia in a world that is still just a spinning ball with an increasing population; a place where businesses exist today and are gone or “acquired” by tomorrow evening. This is the world of disruption in which risk managers must advise and support business managers to survive and build competitive advantage over peers and over future competitors that do not even exist in the marketplace today. Getting clarity from chaos is the key to success in this new world.

How does one get “clarity” when we are faced with risk blindness?  How can we assess the risks created by selective compliance?  Is this an area for leadership focus?  Is this a threat that risk management should consider?  How does one ensure that the organization is getting valid information and that it can respond to compliance requirements when compliance requirements may not be uniform?

Leadership Challenge

How does one lead in times of uncertainty? Let us first define “leadership”, as follows: the ability to achieve results through involving other people. While the literature distinguishes a range of leadership models, the bottom line is this: it involves engaging people and it does that with an eye on intended results.

Throughout the diversity in leadership models, certain characteristics of leaders are usually mentioned. Those characteristics contribute to the bottom line given above, in that they explain how leaders engage others towards results.  One characteristic is that leaders play a role in designing strategy and initiating change. An important part of that is formulating a vision. Typically the leader does this in communicating with others in the company, in reading market conditions, in responding to new challenges in markets and technologies (depending on the followed leadership style, he or she relies on a trusted circle, or engages in dialogues within a much wider circle). Gathering information for a vision is typically the initial phase of a change process, as the information requires a response once the picture is complete. An effective leader knows how to formulate the vision in such a way that others are both inspired in it and encouraged by it.

Related to the role of formulating the vision is that of being a role model. One could say that a change process is only a success if and when it leads to behaviors that stakeholders, and especially clients, appreciate, in the sense that more and better business is done. What such behavior looks like is up to the leader to demonstrate and teach.

Essential to leadership is the attention paid to relationships and the communication-processes that allow relationships to be mobilized. Obviously, this is not the same for all leadership styles, as servant leadership is much more characterized by it than authoritarian leadership, but it plays some role in all kinds of leadership.

A characteristic that is also typically found in all styles of leadership is the ability to deal with risk. This may have something to do with a higher degree of intelligence, allowing the leader to understand risks and the options for dealing with it better. It also has something to do with courage or the ability to manage stress.

A recent article in RHR International Executive Insight newsletter states:

“In uncertain times, it is essential to bridge the conceptual difference between “leading” and “managing.”  Organizations need leaders to show the way forward and instill a sense of energy and inspiration.”

The article cites four key concepts for leading people during times of uncertainty; Inform, Connect, Guide and Unite.

When faced with the challenge of risk blindness, how does one achieve compliance that serves to inform, connect, guide and unite?  Consider that leaders are often focused on achieving goals and objectives, that may be short term in nature and carry with them tremendous pressures to attain them.  The pressure to produce results can often times override close scrutiny of the risks that are created.  This creates stress; and stress causes people to react in unanticipated ways, often not realizing the consequences of their actions.  This can lead to a crisis situation that has the potential to mushroom into negative consequences for the organization.

It is becoming clear that senior management has to pay close attention to what is being presented in the news, social media, etc.  There is a lot at stake; an organization’s reputation, potential loss of revenue, customers, share price, etc.  Senior management needs to incorporate an intelligence function into the strategy of the organization.  An intelligence function can be defined as an information gathering, analysis and vetting function.  Many organizations have Competitive Intelligence functions that assess competitor information and seek leverage for the organization’s products or services.  This function needs to be expanded in focus to include a broader assessment of information that has potential to impact (either positively or negatively) the organization and its “Value Chain” (Customers, Suppliers, Vendors, etc.).

Systems Thinking

The Titanic was warned 4 times by other vessels about dangerous icebergs.  These warnings (information) were ignored, because the Captain, crew and passengers believed the mighty ship was unsinkable.

Management of risks is the same as the navigating or the steering of a ship.  When a captain prepares his seagoing voyage he will endeavor to gather as much information as he can.  He needs information about wind speed, wind direction, tide, strength of currents or weather reports and will use the latest maritime charts to learn how deep the waters will be on route.  Then he will need to know how fast his ship can sail in rougher waters, whether his cargo could move and destabilize his vessel, the competency of his crew, etc.  In short he will need to use ‘all’ available information, his experience and knowledge to arrive at the port of destination safely.

When we fast forward this and use the metaphor of ‘captain’ of industries, we can observe a difference between leaders in several industrial and financial sectors and our ships’ master.  Captains of Industry do not always gather all information to steer their organization with. They often select only that information which confirms their purpose.  Such purposes can be; growth, profit, achieving pre-planned goals or pursuit of success.  Information such as potential environmental, social or economic impact is sometimes not welcomed, because it could interfere with their pre-set goals.  This is a fundamental cause of risk and results in vulnerability of the whole network related to the enterprise.  By this comparison, using metaphors, we can easily understand what is happening to our world and why the World Economic Forum reports on Global Risks.  The WEF does not offer a solution, however.

Systems thinking suggests a way out as follows:

To drive a car, to navigate a tanker, to fly an airplane; these activities can only be performed with the lowest exposure to risk if ALL information and knowledge is accepted and used.  Nature works the same way.  It operates with so called information feedback loops.  We observe two types of information feedback; positive, with an amplifying effect (for example: a vessel’s speed) and negative, with a dampening effect (for example: ocean currents).  If a vessel needs to arrive within a certain date at a next port, it cannot just increase speed (positive feedback) without allowing for opposing ocean currents (negative feedback), because only by balancing speed with those currents can it sail safely.  Therefore, the same principle applies to businesses and organizations; they can only thrive and prevent risks when they use and balance all information feedback loops and navigate within natural boundaries of environmental and social functionality.  It was Fritjof Capra who wrote: ‘Sometimes the situation needs positive feedback of a harmful disturbance, leading to a crisis and then to the emergence of a new healthier state.’ (in our metaphor: safer vessels, better communication, improved awareness or caution).

Risks can be prevented when a captain of industry or any leader understands that everything is interconnected, interrelated and interdependent.  A tanker, a cruise liner or an organization’s course has to be constantly corrected by a continuous flow of updated information, like navigating a ship.  A destination cannot be reached without this perception and acceptance.  Nature will simply not allow it as the Titanic drama confirms.  Therefore it is not only Risk Blindness, but also the refusal to see.  Because organizations and their leaders are not always aware of the nature and impact of certain risks, they are not inclined to want to know more about it.

Part of the risk situation is the threat of overlooking certain responsibilities.  This is often the result of risk blindness, in the sense that someone does not realize that one or more of his stakeholders associate him with certain responsibilities and expect him to honor them.  Not all managers are inclined to think in terms of the Law of Unintended Consequences.  This principle is widely accepted these days in medical ethics and holds that if a medical professional plans a certain procedure, e.g. surgery, then he or she is not only responsible for the procedure, but also for impacts surrounding it, e.g. the impact of anesthetics.  The same should hold for managers, if they want to successfully manage risk.  If a manager plans a certain development, e.g. reorganization, then he or she is also responsible for the side effects, e.g. confusion with clients or demotivation with the staff.  If he does not accept such responsibility, then those affected by those side-effects may respond in ways that constitute risk.

One cause of the lack of acceptance of the Law of Unintended Consequences is what in the literature is called “agency problem”.  This problem entails that sometimes governance policies and processes emphasize that a manager, or other professional, is not more than an agent of the owners of the organization and has to restrict his sense of responsibility to what the owners have put in his or her job description.  This may lead to situations that are deemed unacceptable by many of the stakeholders; for instance, most of the professionals who contributed to Volkswagens’ “dieselgate” have probably done good work within the definitions in their job descriptions, but in doing so have put Volkwagen, and its owners, employees and clients, at risk, which by now has materialized in costs of up to billions of dollars.

The figure below depicts a typical system with feedback loops (internal and external):


Sustainability came on the agenda when a UN committee, led by the Norwegian former prime minister Emma Brundtland, issued a report in 1987, entitled Our Common Future.  It described the issues we now know as “sustainability” and coined the following definition:

sustainability means taking care of the needs of today in such a way that future generations are not deprived of their means to take care of their own needs”.

This definition implied that at the time, societies, governments and business communities were depriving future generations of what they need to live.  A harsh, albeit justified, accusation.

A revised definition, builds on the Brundtland definition – the ability to add value to stakeholders today in such a way that one would also in the future add value to stakeholders, continuing relevance – while rephrasing it in terms more familiar to the business realities of today.  After all, it is part of the essence of business endeavors to add value to stakeholders.  From that perspective, it is not hard to extrapolate into the future and set as a goal that the business should also in the future continue to add value (to stakeholders and non-stakeholders).  How to do that is not always easy to determine, but by itself it is not very different from determining how to satisfy needs when entering a new market.  It should well be within the competences of the business community.

The latest development was the establishing in 2015 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprising 17 distinct goals; together encompassing sustainability, accomplished by 2030.  The goals vary from goals on the use of resources and the avoidance of pollution to goals about fighting poverty and illiteracy to accomplishing reliable governmental institutions.

The SDGs suffer from two difficulties: 1) they are designed for use by governments, leaving the business world with the problem of translating them to their realities, and 2) it will be an enormous challenge for all governments to make the SDGs operational.

The risk with the new systemic understanding of sustainability is again twofold: 1) companies respond by “cherry picking”, selecting the one item in the SDGs that they think they can get under control, and 2) some managers and entrepreneurs become so overwhelmed by the enormity of the new face of identity that they shy away or resort to a “boiling the frog” behavior.  Both of these behaviors bring risks with them.

The bottom line of sustainability may be formulated thus that we in the present know, or should know, what is unsustainable and why we should avoid what is unsustainable.  We know that pollution must be avoided and we even know how situations that in the past lead to pollution have now resulted in new uses of materials and new production lines.  The bottom line is also that the financials are available showing that operating sustainably leads to more profit and more business continuity than ignoring the issues we categorize under the name “sustainability”.  Increasingly the financial markets have come to notice those financials and start to regard sustainable business as more secure investments than unsustainable investments.

Both aspects of the bottom line are associated with risk.  The first is the most straight-forward: ignoring the risks associated with what we all know to be unsustainable will at some point and in varying degrees result in trouble, varying from legal prosecution to actions by NGOs, to having more difficulty in hiring talent.  The second is a bit less visible.  The risk of losing the confidence of the financial markets is less tangible, but it can have devastating effects.  It may manifest itself in lower share prices or in higher costs of capital, but it will come at a price.

A New Challenge for Risk Managers

How do Risk Managers rise to meet the challenge?

Risk Managers need to understand the “information to intelligence” cycle and to apply this to business continuity planning (this includes Crisis Management, Contingency Planning, Emergency Preparedness Planning, Crisis Communications Planning, stakeholder management, etc.).  As depicted in the figure, entitled: “Information to Intelligence Cycle” the process of turning information into actionable intelligence is critical to decision making.

Planners perform risk assessments, business impact assessments/analysis, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and other types of information gathering and analysis.  Unfortunately, most of these efforts are hampered by the time it takes to organize, conduct, analyze and report.  Generally, by the time the assessment goes to press (report), the information contained therein is dated at best and useless at worst.
From systems science or systems thinking perspective we therefore would have to change this ‘analytical’ approach into a so-called ‘synthesis’.  Synthesis works in the reverse direction of analysis.  It means trying to understand an entity through the context of its relations within the whole of which they are a part.  Synthesizing speeds up the process of assessment and reporting by gathering information: could any relationship with any stakeholder become a potential risk?

An essential element of risk management should be the ability to provide critical intelligence from the most current available information.  This requires “Active Analysis” a term that I created to describe the process of constantly remaking the mosaic that we create as we conduct analysis and develop plans.  An “integrated” approach to information capture and analysis is essential.  The “integrated” approach, as presented in my article, “FutureProofing” the Process of Active Analysis” originally published in 2001 and rewritten in 2015 is based on the concept of graceful degradation and agile restoration.  “Graceful degradation” refers to the ability of an organization to identify the event, classify it into a level of severity, determine its consequences, establish minimal stable functionality, devolve to the most robust less functional configuration available and to begin to direct initial efforts for rapid restoration of services in a timely fashion.

“Active Analysis” is based on 17 analysis elements that can be structured on three levels; strategic, operational and tactical.  Each level of analysis becomes supportive of the next level, either drilling down (from strategic to tactical) or escalating up (tactical to strategic).

The traditional roles of the planner, the risk manager, the disaster recovery specialist, etc. are becoming obsolete.  These roles need to evolve with the times in order to continue to provide value.  However, this evolution need not be painful; expansion of the traditional roles into a merged, coordinated team that is focused on information sharing, joint analysis and integrated planning to support the organization’s strategic goals and objectives can be accomplished.

Overcoming Risk Blindness

During the cold war between the United States of America and the former Soviet Union, there were thousands of nuclear warheads targeted at the antagonists and their allies. The result, the concept of mutually assured destruction was created.  The term was used to convey the idea that neither side could win an all-out war; both sides would destroy each other.  The risks were high; there was a constant effort to ensure that “Noise” was not mistaken for “Signal” triggering an escalation of fear that could lead to a reactive response and devastation.   Those tense times have largely subsided, however, we now find ourselves in the midst of global competition and the need to ensure effective resilience in the face of uncertainty.  As depicted in the figure below, Executing the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy one may encounter transparent vulnerabilities (a form of risk blindness) that are only readily seen in hindsight.  When implementing a CSR program there are execution risks that must be addressed: is the action the right action or the wrong action?  Can taking no action be the right thing to do, or the wrong thing to do?  What are the outliers and variables that we need to track and take into consideration?  Are we dealing with distorted maps of reality?  How can we overcome biases and linear thinking?

Jeffrey Cooper offers some perspective: "The problem of the Wrong Puzzle.  You rarely find what you are not looking for, and you usually do find what you are looking for."  In many cases the result is irrelevant information. 

It is essential that we gather as much information as possible to facilitate better decision making.  However, we have to acknowledge that due to limitations of time and human bias decisions are going to be flawed.  It is this factor, “Flawed Decision Making” that we have to be acutely aware of.  Once we have this awareness we can begin to create a more flexible and resilient operating environment that focuses on constant risk buffering (dynamic) rather than one off risk mitigation that is static.

In a recent article, Norman Marks writes:

It is easy to say that risk management should be embedded into business processes such as strategic planning. But is it that easy to accomplish in practice?  I think it’s fair to say that in most organizations they are quite separate.

Marks states:

So, none of these major management consulting companies mention risk management.  Is that because they don’t understand its value and how it should be integrated or embedded into strategic planning?  Possibly so.  So how does a risk officer get involved? How can he or she ensure that risk is considered?  Well, to me it starts with the same point I have been making for a long time now.

He provides a shared a link to a series of 12 questions about strategic planning from the consultancy firm of Bain & Company.

q  What assumptions have been made in defining the (internal and external) business environment and how it will change over the next period? What is the level of confidence in them?

q  What has and will be done to confirm, monitor, and (to the extent possible) realize the assumptions? Can the likelihood of realizing the assumptions be improved?

q  How confident are you in the quality of the information being used to understand the business environment and its future? Can that be improved?

q  How were the potential consequences of each strategic option assessed? Were the likelihoods of each level of achievement estimated with confidence? Is the likelihood of the desired set of consequences at an acceptable level?

q  Were potential adverse situations or events considered? How were they assessed?

q  How were potential adverse and positive effects and outcomes assessed in aggregate?

q  What is the level of confidence that the strategies will be achieved to the level of the goals and targets that have been set?

q  Is that level of confidence acceptable? What can and will be done to improve it?

q  Will performance against targets be measured in a way that incorporates changes in the potential for both positive and adverse effects in the future?

q  Can strategies and targets be modified as conditions now and expected in the future change?

The above questions are similar to those developed by Michael Kami; presented in his book, “Trigger Points: How to Make Decisions Three Times Faster”.

The key point here is not to follow any particular list, but rather to use these questions as thought generators.  Recognize the effects of bias will influence your identification of information, analysis of that information and decision making.

As the figure below depicts, we need to assess, not assume or, attempt to predict, or speculate on.  The spheres below give a perspective on what we know, tend to think we know, tend to speculate upon.  We have to acknowledge that what is unknown (the Unknown Unknowns) will remain so, until discovered and labeled.

Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber would define this as a Systemic Operational Design (SOD) problem - a "wicked problem" that is a social problem that is difficult and confusing versus a "tame problem" not trivial, but sufficiently understood that it lends itself to established methods and solutions.  I think that we have a "wicked problem".

As Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn in “Constructing Cassandra: Reframing Intelligence Failure at the CIA, 1947–2001” write, “Gresham's Law of Advice comes to mind: "Bad advice drives out good advice precisely because it offers certainty where reality holds none"” (page 249). False certainty may be worse than uncertainty.

Just because it is the right thing to do, doesn't make it the easy thing to do.  But doing only the easy things is not a wise strategy.  At least, the successful organizations we all know did not get to be there by only doing easy things; rather, in those companies success was achieved by having the guts to do what in other organizations they were hesitant about.

Concluding Thoughts

What does the future look like?  A Chinese proverb states that "Opportunity is always present in the midst of crisis."  Another one states: “If you give the wrong man the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” Every crisis carries two elements, danger and opportunity.  No matter the difficulty of the circumstances, no matter how dangerous the situation… at the heart of each crisis lies a tremendous opportunity.  Great blessings lie ahead for the one who knows the secret of finding the opportunity within each crisis.

About the Authors

Geary Sikich – Management Advisor, author and business lecturer
Contact Information: E-mail: or  Telephone: 1- 219-922-7718.

eary Sikich is a seasoned risk management professional who advises private and public sector executives to develop risk buffering strategies to protect their asset base.  With a M.Ed. in Counseling and Guidance, Geary's focus is human capital: what people think, who they are, what they need and how they communicate. With over 25 years in management consulting as a trusted advisor, crisis manager, senior executive and educator, Geary brings unprecedented value to clients worldwide.

Geary is well-versed in contingency planning, risk management, human resource development, “war gaming,” as well as competitive intelligence, issues analysis, global strategy and identification of transparent vulnerabilities.  Geary has developed more than 4,000 plans and conducted over 4,500 simulations from tabletops to full scale integrated exercises.  Geary began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army after completing his BS in Criminology.  As a thought leader, Geary leverages his skills in client attraction and the tools of LinkedIn, social media and publishing to help executives in decision analysis, strategy development and risk buffering.  A well-known author, his books and articles are readily available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Internet.

Joop Remmé Ph.D. – lecturer, researcher, consultant
Contact information:
 Joop Remmé has a long track-record as a lecturer within MBA schools and as a consultant.

Joop Remmé has over the past 30 years been teaching and consulting on management development, CSR/ sustainability, stakeholder management and corruption/integrity. He has also published on these subjects in academic journals and is a regular speaker at conferences. He recently authored a webinar on Managing the Sustainability Agenda:
He has served on the Board of the Netherlands business Ethics Network and currently is on the Board of the Netherlands chapter of Transparency International. He is a visiting professor at the FOM Hochschule (

Arend Van Campen MA –  Researcher, lecturer, author
   Arend van Campen MA, TankTerminalTraining & Creazene Institute, Switzerland

After more than 30 years working in the Energy Industry, Arend earned a Master’s degree in Business Ethics & Social Responsibility. He started TTT and teaches that a safe and profitable business can thrive only when people choose sustainably. He has set up ‘CREAZENE’, a research institute focusing on a sustainable future, the protection of human and non-human life and the preservation of the environment. Currently he integrates ‘Systems Theory’ in his workshops as a scientific tool to enhance overall business performance within environmental boundaries. He publishes research findings on his blog: His book ‘Safety of Ethics’ is available for free on


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