As we head into the holiday season, we find ourselves facing another wave of COVID-19 as the Omicron variant spreads across the country and the world. The words from the Lord of the Rings continue to ring true:
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Over the last couple of years whether we have wanted to or not we have stepped onto that road and found ourselves being schooled on the topics of risk management. We may not have understood what risk was before COVID, but we do now at an experiential level and perhaps even explicitly. We have lived and breathed uncertainty and have had to learn how to deal with its effects.
So, what have we learned from our years under the tutelage of uncertainty?
We have learned that:
1. Everything happens in the presence of uncertainty
Uncertainty may be associated with the news we hear, prediction models, COVID tests, and even with the vaccines we have now received. We will be more certain about some of these than others but there is always some uncertainty.
We have had to learn to process information that is incomplete, inaccurate, over or understated, and sometimes even too much.
I am sure that many long for the days living in the Shire when we knew what to expect, how things worked, and when life was predictable.
2. We all have different appetites for risk
We probably have family members or friends that do not share the same appetite for risk as we do. Some may be risk tolerant and accept everything that may happen good or bad — call it fate or luck, whatever happens will happen.
Others may be intolerant and choose not to have any risks whatsoever. They will shape their world the best they can to reduce their exposure to risk.
You may even know others who are somewhere in between these extremes.
Learning how to negotiate each perspective is not easy but necessary particularly around the dinner table if you want to experience a measure of peace.
3. Risk can be treated
Risk in many cases is reducible. We can learn more, we can improve our models, we can develop better risk measures.
For example, we can lower our chances of catching COVID by wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, getting vaccinated, and so on. We have learned that these are preventive measures.
We can also reduce the effects of the virus by using ventilators along with receiving other medical treatments. We have learned that these are mitigative measures.
4. Not all risks matter
COVID is the biggest threat and priority for many and perhaps most. However, for those in British Columbia, what is foremost on their minds is dealing with floods caused by atmospheric rivers. This would also be true for those in Texas who are facing the effects from recent tornadoes.
For you, risk might be closer to home or your business. How will you make the next payroll, will I have a job in the new year, or one of many other concerns.
We have needed to learn how to prioritize and act on the risks that really matter.
5. Risk tolerance is malleable
In life and in business we hope for things. We hope to arrive at our destination, for a specific outcome, to complete a project on time, to visit a friend, and many other things.
Sometimes it is the magnitude of what we are hoping for that increases our tolerance for risk. When the perceived benefits are high, we often neglect risks altogether. We might call this gambling.
We have learned that we need to check our cognitive biases at the door.
6. There will always be some risk
When it comes to contending with risk, we will do our part to establish measures with some more effective than others. However, there will always still be some uncertainty or doubt in our defences. This is called residual risk.
We have had to learn how to deal with uncertainty that persists.
7. Hope is not a good strategy for risk
While hope may not be a good strategy to contend with uncertainty, faith on the hand very well might be.
Faith is defined in the Christian Bible as, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
To some degree this is also what risk management is trying to accomplish. Risk management helps us be sure of what we hope to achieve and certain of what we do not yet see — the desired outcomes of our efforts.
However, when risk measures are not enough and uncertainty persists, we often find that we need to put our faith in something or someone else.
In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf came to Frodo to invite him on a journey. It was Frodo’s faith in Gandalf that gave him the courage to step outside his door into a world he did not really know and where his path was uncertain.
Many including myself will soon be celebrating Christmas when God came into our world to invite us on a similar journey. Much like Frodo, it has been my faith in this God that has helped me take the steps I needed when things were uncertain and my path was unclear.
What I found was that after I took each step of faith my path became clearer, I could see a little further, and the God that I trusted in was proved to be faithful in keeping all his promises.The outcome for me has been an increase in gratefulness, joy but mostly peace.
The Year Ahead
As this year comes to a close, I want to thank all of you for being part of the Lean Compliance journey with me. It has been an adventure for sure which we plan to continue for years to come.
Whatever and wherever you find yourself I hope that you may enjoy an extra measure of peace over the holidays. May you also find joy and in the words from the Hobbit:
‘If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.’ – Thorin Oakenshield
Merry Christmas from all us at Lean Compliance