Written by Mr Ken Hackshaw – Executive Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Risk Management Institute, Lead faculty of the Professional Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management
What concept from this Pandemic can decision-makers, leaders and risk practitioners lean into?
The answer is: Timely and effective surveillance…
The term “timely and effective surveillance” is applied (today) to the identification and tracking for pandemic risk events like a coronavirus (COVID-19). I am respectfully suggesting that we apply this concept for all Emerging risks.
So what is meant by timely and effective surveillance?
“Surveillance systems as it relates to the medical field is applied to generate data that help public health officials understand existing and emerging infectious and non-infectious diseases. Without a proper understanding of the health problem (etiology, distribution, and mechanism of infection), it will be difficult to ameliorate the health issue”….
This is the process that tracks and evaluates the levels of risk in an organization. The findings which are produced by risk monitoring processes can be used to help in all aspects of business operations including strategic planning and process improvements.
The Cassandra effect:
The Cassandra metaphor (variously labeled the Cassandra “syndrome”, “complex”) occurs when one’s valid warnings or concerns are disbelieved by others. The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. The Cassandra curse occurs when a valid warning is disbelieved, dismissed, or disregarded. Most notably, she is said to have warned the Trojans not to accept the wooden horse that famously led to their downfall.
Modern Cassandras warn us of potential issues that could cause big problems down the road.
Avoiding the Cassandra effect: Surveillance and risk monitoring
We submit that it is much easier to see a hazard when it’s right in front of you than it is to identify a risk. For example, the dangers presented by hanging electrical wires or an oil leak are clear and immediate. It is much harder, however, to identify risks that can eventuate and impact your business that are days or months or even years into the future.
Steps in carrying out surveillance/Risk monitoring
- Reporting: Someone has to record the data.
- Data accumulation: Someone has to be responsible for collecting the data from all the reporters and putting it all together.
- Data analysis: Someone has to look at the data to determine and or calculate rates of probability, impact, and likelihood.
- Decisions: decisions must be made but must be followed by action.
Some questions to move you forward:
- Are you conducting surveillance of the risks/hazards that are impacting your international vendors and suppliers?
- Are you conducting surveillance of risk/hazards being faced by other Caribbean territories?
- Are you privy to or getting information that you are disregarding? (Cassandra effect)
- Surveillance: Horizon scanning, researching, information gathering, data mining to ascertain what risks are out there that have not yet reached your shores (territory, industry, home) but may.
- Risk Monitoring: If the risk does reach your shore: identify, track and evaluate continuously
- Cassandra effect: Don’t disregard information. Consider all possibilities and don’t be fooled by certainty (convergence of risk monitoring and surveillance)
We have to begin building a new tool box of agile and resilient processes to treat with the new complexities and uncertainties that lie ahead. There may not be time to respond to future risk events, for respond means the risk has already eventuated. You must ACT NOW.