Thursday, May 21, 2015

ASA is six years old

ASA Graphic Designer Jesse Brown
Me and my closest advisor, Lauren Du Graf, wrote all the content for the site, found and furnished the ASA office, and double checked all our perceptions on what this website should be between May and July.

First and Union website developers: Sherry Stripling, Rick New, Molly Martin
My friend Fred Pursell told me that it takes six years to establish a consultancy, and it appears he was right.  After a month long train ride around the country to spend time with friends and decide what I wanted to do next, I filed for articles of incorporation for ASA in May of 2009.  The percentages of my time allocated to various parts of the firm have varied these past six years, but never the two sides of the company.  There is the advisory side of the firm, where we consult with clients that are part of the nation's critical infrastructure; and there is the research side of the firm, including the ASA Institute for Risk and Innovation, that includes publications, public speaking and advocacy and, in some cases, lobbying on behalf of legislation or public policy.

I've really never looked back.  And while I am cutting back on the advisory side of the firm in order to teach full time at the University of Washington starting in August, my interest in how firms behave, in how they practice risk management, and in information-sharing between public and private sectors is still unabashed.

 Carpe Diem!  I can't wait to see what the next six years will bring.




Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bright spots

I read recently that sugar reduces the amount of cortisol your body produces under stress.  It makes perfect sense when you think about it, and before they even ran clinical trials -- but based on the last several weeks, I would say that the world gives us more reason than ever to produce the cortisol.

Whether it is the catastrophic earthquake in Tibet and the loss of both human life, property and cultural heritage...or the devastation in Baltimore, a byproduct of an anger that has been festering for years...or simply personal challenges we all face in our work every day, we need to reduce the cortisol. And there are no easy solutions.

I have found generally that doing what I love evens most other risks (including cortisol) out. I love sharing what I know with others, so being a guest luncheon speaker for the Washington Association of Continuity Planners (ACP) gave me back energy when I spoke on leadership and professionalism.

Earlier this week, I led a panel discussion on "Access, Privacy and Information Risk" for the iSchool's iAffiliates Day, held this year most appropriately at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library.  My panelists were high bandwidth and compelling -- Jim Loter, who is the director of IT for the library; Bryce Newell, working on his PhD in the iSchool, who discussed his work with body cameras, public disclosure and Washington State Law; and Aaron Weller, director of privacy and security in the Pacific Northwest for PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  You know that it has gone well by the count of hands in the air to ask questions.

Now I'm getting ready for another kind of thrill -- today's guest speaker in my advanced risk seminar is Mike Howard, Chief of Security at Microsoft.  He's had at least two other professional careers before he arrived at Microsoft, and they play continuously into the work he does globally now.  He is a well-known and respected speaker inside and outside security circles on topics of leadership and policy.

"In the zone."  "Doing what you love."  Both good recipes for cortisol reduction.  Find those bright spots.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Keeping It New

One of the challenges I face in teaching carries some risk.  That's the challenge of keeping the content refreshed, and bringing the same level of excitement each time I teach the course.  I first taught each of my operational risk courses as "special topics," and have been teaching them as permanent electives for a couple of years now.  Each of the courses lends itself to updates in the reading material, especially based on recent or current events.

But for the students the challenge is in learning how to have a conversation about certain types of risk, how to make an individual assessment and then provide recommendations for a course of action.  We use a couple of different kinds of skills in class:  discussion among peers, facilitated discussions, presentation by example (myself, themselves, and our guest speakers); and writing for an executive audience.

Along the way, we've had to deal with what it means to be present and contributing in class as a seminar member.  I ask that students listen respectfully, with their laptops turned off, to the presentations.  There are so many challenges for their attention, or for my own, that many of us who teach have reverted to showing them studies of how much more effective it is to take notes by hand rather than on the computer -- assuming that what you were doing was taking notes rather than (for example) checking Facebook or Twitter.

There is so much pressure on students to do well that I think it's also important to stop and smell the roses along the way when you can.  Today we're discussing a variety of articles,  including several that purport to explain behavior, of both rogues and executives.  What happens to the calm, rational process of decision making when you are under pressure?  Do you take bigger risks or do you take the most cautious approach?  I think you'd be surprised at what some of the studies say.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Is it possible to manage our privacy?

 I apologize for the long interval between my last post and this one.

Those who've read Advice From A Risk Detective already have a good sense of what I advise in terms of your online privacy.  But here's a short piece I wrote for a Seattle magazine, The Connector,  that hits the high points.

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.