Tag: Risk Management

Grappling with Risks – The (Very) Basics Can Yield Abundant Return

In a recent exchange of e-mail about preparations and readiness for emergency response and business continuity, an IFMA FMCC colleague, who instructs in the FMP (Facility Management Professional) program, remarked, with respect to being introduced to risk as an FM concept, “…students seem so enthralled with the risk matrix concept, having mostly never seen it before.”  He refers to the idea that severity of consequences and likelihood of an event taking place, which are separate factors, combine to form risk.

This works for any problem that an FM can identify that might occur. A matrix of severities and likelihoods handily presents risks as combinations of likelihood and consequence, should the hazard become an event up ahead. Severe impacts that are also likely mark large vulnerabilities and warrant attention to reduce severity, likelihood, or both. On the other hand, small, unlikely events might receive attention only coincidently, when it is convenient and economical. Many risks are somewhere in between. Risks may be considered alone or combined. Certain combinations of identified risks can reasonably occur together. The combinations themselves have severity and likelihood and can be treated together for purposes of planning and mitigation.  

Let’s identify, examine, and compile risks to get them in view. Risks are in good supply against any project of program.

They can be

  • physical,
  • logistical,
  • financial,
  • social & political,
  • legal…

Is that cleaning service sound financially? How likely are we to have an assault in the parking garage, or an active shooter? What if the CAFM becomes corrupt or unavailable? Talk with people and write down all that come up. Keep adding to the list. You can’t mitigate everything, but you don’t want to miss a big one that you could have anticipated. Begin by ranking likelihood 1-5 in a somewhat subjective way. Rank severity of consequences the same way. Multiply likelihood x severity for each, to derive a score between 1 and 25. To get this far requires small and steady investments of time and effort, and yields large awareness and understanding.  

Your organization will have its own risk profile. Now comes the part where detailed knowledge matters. Another colleague offers a convincing example of large differences in risk for almost the same event. One leads to minor inconvenience. The other leads to business failure after an agonizing interval in a way that, in retrospect, is painfully obvious. A damaged small diameter water connection to a refrigerator ice maker leaks onto the floor on a weekend when no one is present. Water trickles along the floor and through a pipe feed into unused basement space below. On the next work day, maintenance personnel repair the tubing in a few minutes and set up fans to dry the basement. (They stop the vertical opening around the pipe too, to limit spread of fire.)

A similar leak on a weekend in a kitchenette, on the floor over a back office operations center of a different tenant, ruins equipment and destroys data and records, stopping operations. Replacement equipment can be found and configured, but software reconstruction will be complicated and backup data status uncertain. The business briefly operates, but some customers have already found other providers. Those remaining experience problems. The business closes. The devil was in the details. 

Coming up: Risky Business, Livening Up a Risk Register. Sound like a snore? Stay tuned.  


Risk Management

Becoming the Eye of a Storm

Many of us have been in disasters, mishaps, or upsets during our lifetimes and careers. Currently, adverse events and circumstances pop up all over and in wide variety: natural disasters such as wildfires or hurricanes, large of small accidents, incidents, and failures in the built environment, adverse social and personal events and stresses such as violence or political and economic crisis, or top management reorganizes, bringing closings, merging of locations and departments, and new people and policies. Events and episodes like these evidence themselves as threats or disruptions, costing time, energy, and sometimes good will. FM has to respond effectively from the first moment and carry through. Temporary or permanent changes will be afoot, and people don’t usually like change.

Change – now even organizational change is changing. Incident response remains an FM priority, but business continuity is becoming a widely accepted strategic theme with objectives to implement and considerations at every stage of response, recovery, and adaptation. FM and other organizational areas collaborate to prepare and test plans and competencies to make the best of bad situations. Bodies of knowledge and proven practice have emerged for these purposes. Organizations just need to learn, plan, practice, and evaluate. Problem solved?

No, not necessarily. What if, after a while, things aren’t going well? Frustration, then resentment, lack of trust, and communication breakdown show up, after things progressed well at first. People become angry and suspicious. Productivity drops and morale dips. Managers spend more time with employees trying to discern and help, but irritability increases and solution focused behavior decreases. What could be the problem? To a surprising degree, it may be personal, but difficult to recognize and challenging to surround and reverse.

After adverse events, people individually and together are vulnerable in ways and at times difficult to predict, least of all to themselves. Their changed circumstances are uncharacteristically demanding and stressful. Events and incidents that bring harm and force change can affect anyone with a stake in FM. Surprisingly strong effects can show up some time after the event. The two authors, who are usually aware, alert, and professional, have been touched this way in person. One of us – first responder, military pilot, veteran of a handful of small companies, and consultant to others – noticed weeks after hurricane Katrina wrecked his home, business, and town, that his cognition was less complete and reliable than he expected and needed as he lead an NGO to recover. “Katrina brain” was widely experienced as a delayed effect that continued long after that hurricane. The other author, despite knowing the possibilities, became enervated and discouraged more than a week after working an especially debasing sexual abuse case. Both kept producing to meet responsibilities, but with experiences that, remembered now, reflect reduced astuteness.

Our surprising (to us) reactions reflect a growing understanding of behavior and characteristics after trauma, and are the subject of our next blog. We will make a case for being ready to dial down the contributions of staff, providers, tenants, officials, clients, customers, executives, or even yourself, as part of contingency planning to support business continuity. The situation that we refer to is not just fatigue from overwork and stress. Rest and recreation can relieve that. This goes deeper, less predictably, and calls for awareness and management as a risk.

So keep a sharp eye when in the eye of a storm, and even sharper after the storm has passed.


Risk Management

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