Thursday, February 5, 2015

We are the architects of our city -- creating the City of Seattle's Disaster Recovery Plan

Last week, students in my risk seminar heard from UW seismologist Bill Steele, in particular about the Cascadia subduction zone we live in, including what advance planning and management of risks associated with a major earthquake can be done in advance.

This week, students will hear from Erika Lund, who oversees the City of Seattle's Disaster Recovery Plan, which is an entirely different framework from which to view a disaster.  Among the questions asked of  the Executive Advisory Group, to which Mayor Ed Murray appointed me, were:  how will the Seattle community handle short and long term recovery efforts?  How can we return our economy, education system, social service network, and other vital aspects of our community to full function?  How can we use a disaster as an opportunity to rebuild our community better than it was before? Who is responsible for making such decisions and with whose input? How and when will they be made?

Erika will describe the planning process today and talk as well about the identification of the core values that are a part of the plan.

Someone asked me yesterday if I don't find the world a very depressing place.  I answered that I do not, in part because of inspired work like this, and the people who give their time to do it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Juno, we're looking over your shoulder...

Juno (Latin: Iūno [ˈjuːno]) is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan.

Central Park today. Instgaram Photo, Andrew Lee Taylor

Northeast public officials have declared states of emergency in advance of Winter Storm Juno, which is likely to cause significant inconvenience and perhaps dangers to public safety as well -- though that is certainly the point of the emergency declarations.

Of all the stories I've seen, the most charming is from The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz, who trumpeted "FEMA Warning:  Internet Outages Caused by Blizzard Could Force People to Interact."  He's right, it could be a golden opportunity to lay down the technology and spend some time with family, neighbors and friends...and your generator.

Hopefully those who could be affected have stocked up on food, water, batteries, diesel (for the generator), and have made a trip to the library so as to have real books on hand to read.   And a battery-operated radio as well, so as to understand how long the storm will persist.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Attention Deficit Disorder and Risk

Here's an interview with me that PR for People's The Connector magazine published last month, in which I opine on a variety of operational risks, including your own personal risks.

Dear Member of the Board

Here's my latest column for The Risk Universe, that makes some recommendations on how boards of directors can up their game where corporate oversight is concerned  It's called "Dear Member of the Board."

There's a lot of responsibility in any corporation at three levels in particular: senior management, the C-Suite, and boards of directors.  Since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act charges boards with a range of responsibilities, understanding them and just how one can become a smarter board member is essential.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Terrorism in Paris

Another blow this morning to public safety and to the role of satire in our society.  It appears that the terrorist attack and killings were yet another attempt to increase the distrust of large Muslim populations in Europe.  We each are diminished by such slaughter.  The image above is from Twitter.

I'm trying to stay on task despite the events in Paris.  I've finished and shipped a new article titled "Dear Member of the Board" for the January issue of The Risk Universe magazine.  I've accepted two new speaking engagements. And I'm about half way through my lecture notes for the first class in my introductory risk course for UW graduate students tomorrow evening. 

My column for this month's issue of ASA News & Notes will be the next project in the queue, and will look more closely at the increasing reach of terrorism.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Risky Business

 A couple of articles have seemed spot on today.  Take a look below, for instance, at this summary of how a company can truly get in trouble.

"In order to be considered truly poorly run, a company must have a track record of missed opportunities, mismanaged risks, poor operational decisions, or executive malfeasance. In short, a company must demonstrate a pattern of decision making that calls into question the ability of its management and directors to adequately provide returns to shareholders."

Operational risk, then, is not just gaps or holes in existing corporate programs. This quote identifies some of the other areas that ASA looks at when it partners with a company.  It's from a Wall Street Journal article recently that looked at the most poorly run companies on the S&P500.  Holding down the top three spots on the list are IBM, McDonald's and Staples, all of whom suffer from sluggish strategic response to digital forces and changing market pressures.

 To this article, I would add Andrew Blau's new white paper for Deloitte on disruption, which seems apt when discussing strategic risk, especially since it is at this risk level that boards of directors are involved.  He notes that "The trouble with strategic risks is there’s often no historical precedent to draw from to assess their potential nature and impact. Sometimes they’re the product of a visible trend, but often they appear as a surprise. And hard as they are to spot in time or manage, they are extremely difficult to recover from."

It's not easy to be either an executive or a board member these days.  Decisions must be made very rapidly, often in the uncharted areas Blau describes in his paper, calculating the amount of risk exposure the decision may bring.

I'm on break right now, but will be back in the saddle next week, teaching the introductory operational risk course I designed in 2012, but which I have rather completely revised for 2015, to make it even more relevant to graduate students who know that risk taking and risk managing will be part of their leadership experience going forward.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Still thinking....

If I had something to say about current events, I would.  But I can't seem to muster more than a single sentence each morning over the past month or so.  In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you the happiest of holidays.  There is plenty to think about and more than enough to do as we move toward a new year.