Discussing the tragedy of the war

Author: Erik De Soir; photo by Karolien Coenen

For several weeks now, images of war have been a daily presence in our homes and we have been overwhelmed by the news of the fighting in Ukraine. It is not only war journalists and diplomats who are involved, but everyone is now a participant in the war that is taking place in Europe and threatening us all. Up to a few weeks ago, for most of us this was unthinkable! This war has generated a new influx of refugees and many of our fellow citizens are preparing to assist refugees and war victims once again and even take them into their homes. Many questions arise as to how to discuss the war with children.

Set out in the document below are ten practical tips on how to talk to people who have fled the war, left everything behind, and need to be accommodated in a foreign environment.

When are scenario thinking and future planning appropriate in risk management ?

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write my own opinion, not that of any organization.

On the one hand, we have risk management.

In risk management, it is common practice to translate a risk as a product of probability and impact.  The most well-known formula for measuring a risk is:

R = P * I

R is the measure of risk, P the measure of the probability of an undesirable event occurring and I its impact on achieving the objectives of the organization. Both are considered known.

Special attention in this article is paid to the situation in which there is a high degree of uncertainty with a risk. Unlike certainty, usually mathematically defined as a number between 0 and 1, or between 0% and 100%, uncertainty is rather something we feel but on which we cannot attach a clear mathematical definition that leans back on certainty. What we do know, however, is when the uncertainty is maximum for the occurrence of an event as a result of a cause. That is if the probability is 50%. Why? Because then the occurrence of the event is a coin on its side: you really do not know which way it will fall.

On the other hand, we have the combination of the future strategies with scenario thinking.

In itself, risk management is also a bit like thinking towards the future: if the probability is high, for example 95% chance of occurrence, then there is a relative high certainty of the occurrence of the impact. It is then, from risk management and in function of the impact, that one has to define and implement a measure. This allows the impact to be optimally prevented or mitigated (in the event of a threat) or provoked to the maximum (in the event of an opportunity).

However, the reasoning I want to make here is this one where the uncertainty is maximum. There it is therefore unclear whether the event will occur, or not. So a twofold future occurs: the event happens or does not happen. With this, a game of extremes occurs, for example:

  • Will it be war or peace?
  • Will healthcare become more preventive or more curative?
  • Will sufficient measures be taken in time for the climate or will it become an unbearable climate?
  • Will there be famine or abundance?

With such uncertainties one can consider these uncertainties in their own right, where one has two futures per uncertainty, or one can  express them per two against each other (if they are sufficiently independent), obtaining quadrants that represent four futures.

In theory one can work with n uncertainties, where one then obtains 2n futures but it becomes problematic, because already from n = 3 one has 8 futures, which becomes unworkable and also because in practice it  becomes more difficult to maintain the independence of these uncertainties.  And that is necessary to foresee extremely different futures.

For each of these futures, instead of directly defining measures, one can then start thinking about scenarios. This is a strategic choice, where one defines how one will act in a certain direction depending on which future becomes true. This instead of putting a single project or action in the pipeline because one has a strong expectation regarding whether (probability rather high) or not (probability rather low) the event with a specific impact will occur.

In order to be able to make the right choice, it is necessary to explore the evolution of the circumstances of the organization.  In other words, lowering the uncertainty about the knowledge of the future. To do that, one has a number of things that one can do.

  • The very first thing to do is to dare to question the assumptions. Are the assumptions that were made the good ones.
  • One determines the extreme futures, the scenarios, and whether one is ready for it, or whether, in contrast, one still has work to do. Usually it is the latter. To this end, one looks at which strategic option is most useful in which possible future. These options involve developing possible future projects or actions, and thoroughly considering their effects with a 360° view. As far as possible, tests or exercises are carried out to estimate the possible effects.  What are the shortcomings that need to be filled in?
  • Furthermore, there is the collection of the necessary information. One will define relevant parameters – indicators – and follow their trends. One determines in advance when one will decide on the basis of which (combination of) indicators which strategic options one will roll out. This is important, because being there in time and preparing for a future can determine whether one can get a  competitive or societal advantage from it or whether one is more likely to encounter a problem.
  • When the future unfolds, one deliberately monitors it, and consciously chooses the pre-agreed options tailored to the actual nuanced future. The timing of the decision and the roll-out of action plans is then crucial.

Conclusion:

Scenario thinking and future planning are relevant within risk management. However, one should have a good idea when this is the case. A rule of thumb is: do this with priority where the probability of an event with a certain impact is average.

Usually there are multiple risks with an average probability. Then give priority to risks with a high impact. After all, these give a more extreme course of the possible futures. As much as possible, make sure that you work with uncertainties that are maximally independent of each other if you plot them against each other.

However, if the impact is very large, and opportunities exist to influence the probabilities in your favor, do not fail to do so with common risk management strategies. “Choose your battles wisely.” After all, future planning and scenario thinking are especially useful when the internal and / or external environment of the organization are substantially uncertain. The choice to work on certainty, or to try to take advantage of uncertainty, is also a strategic choice in itself. And that depends on the capabilities of the organization. The internal environment can usually be influenced. Tinkering with the external environment is usually an impossible task. That is why this technique is also important when trying  to look at risk management objectively for the organization as part of the world.

170 pitfalls for ERM in Europe

Inspired by the book “Enterprise Risk Management in Europe”, Edited by Marco Maffeic

What is it about? It is about the implementation of ERM in organizations in Europe. This is accompanied by a number of obstacles. So there are pitfalls in the implementation of ERM in Europe.

The practice-oriented definition of risk management that is used is as follows:

“Risk management consists of active and intrusive processes that:

  • Are capable of challenging existing assumptions about the world within and outside the organization;
  • Communicate risk information with the use of distinct tools (such as risk maps, stress tests, and scenarios);
  • Collectively address gaps in the control of risks that other control functions (such as internal audit and other boundary controls) leave unaddressed; and in doing so
  • Complement – but do not displace – existing management control practices.”

This book does a study on that. Each of the first 13 chapters are about the situation in a country. This is followed by two reflective chapters about the countries. The countries concerned are: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Finally, in a number of hierarchies, a summary is given in an academic way.

But what seems really important to me are the identified lessons from which insight comes into what can be the cause of ERM going wrong.

The identified lessons that tell why ERM can go wrong are listed in the accompanying excel sheet. This can be used as a kind of attention list for the (further) expansion of ERM.

Corona approach – which factor can become decisive?

Author: Manu Steens

In this blog I write my personal opinion and not that of any organization.

Recently, the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television) stated that the fifth wave has started, with an expected 125,000 infections per day by mid-January.

That is very appealing of course, such numbers. But people want to know what the risk is and what the risk factors are. Classically speaking, one can say that:

Risk = probability x impact

In the case of this pandemic, if we dig deeper into these two factors, we can say in simplified terms that:

–         Probability = exposure x susceptibility x behavior

–         Impact = sensitivity x behavior

In the case of probability, the exposure is a function of the environment (directly proportional to the number of infected people in the environment of the person) in which an individual is located and the susceptibility is an internal factor of the human body: how receptive the body is to the exposure. The behavior here is a factor that implies caution on the part of the individual. This without any degree of pejorative intent: it is regardless of whether the behavior is reckless, such as people hanging too close to each other at the pub, or whether the job is a contact profession that entails this behavior, such as people taking care for patients with Covid19 in the ICU.

At the impact level, the sensitivity is an internal factor of the person’s body, such as someone who naturally has a strong immune system or, unfortunately, just doesn’t have a strong one. The behavior here is best illustrated by people who do or do not have themselves vaccinated. By having themselves vaccinated, if necessary several times, it has been shown that people who get corona suffer a significantly lower impact: they may still get sick, but it is less bad, and therefore there is a good chance that they will not end up in the ICU.

What does that mean, if we put this analysis back into the original formula of risk?

That behavior has an influence of at least squared. Why at least? Because situations are possible where the behavior can have a serious influence on exposure, for example by reducing the number of contacts where possible. But more than that: you can also protect others by adopting good behavior, such as doing a self-test before organizing a party, for example.

So the risk is in higher powers (than the square) dependent on behavior. So far for mathematics from the secondary high school.

That means that not only people should be “good citizens”, the government should direct that behavior as a major factor that can influence this fifth wave (actually any wave).

This applies to citizens as individuals, but also to organizations that depend on their employees. Having an adapted BCP and pandemic plan that is coherent in a flexible way with what the politicians and the legislator prescribe is therefore of enormous importance in the pandemic.

So there is more to it than just infectiologists, virologists and biostatisticians: just as much importance must be attached to what psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists can say about how to deal with this pandemic.

So an identified lesson from this mathematics is

  • More so to work on behavior in any pandemic, endemic or epidemic. The low numbers of flu in 2021 show that it works. So good behavior must be maintained.
  • Without neglecting the medical reality, of course. But as support to healthcare.

And if possible, without fear mongering. One has to work through the trust of the citizens. That which they have with their General Practitioner, their specialist, their caregivers in their own family, their teachers, the caregivers of their relatives, the social workers, community workers…

Covid19 – How “not to waste this crisis”?

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I am writing my own opinion, not that of any organization.

The former Belgian minister Philippe De Backer wrote a book “En nu is het oorlog” (And now it is war).

Let me take this statement literally, and view the future post-covid19 period as a post-war period.

The economic recovery after the wars and crises of 1870, 1918, 1945 happened very quickly: a matter of a few years. Usually five years or less. After that, production growth stagnated. (reference: Alfred Suavy, “Het probleem van overbevolking” (Malthus et les deux Marx)) The limitation of the growth of production after recovery did not exist because there was a shortage of injection of money, nor of machines, but because the population was limited in knowledge and skills. And the factor that one cannot include in accounting is that of people. As one can with money, property, equipment, buildings and debts.

Let’s create two lines of thought. The first: there is a huge war that is destroying all machines and buildings. But the people survive. What happens is that external parties provide them with food, people start making machines, and after a few years there is no longer a backlog. After a rapid return on the actions they take, they evolve towards a plateau of growth which then slows down. Because for more growth, even more knowledge and skills would be needed.

The second line of thought is one in which all medical staff and other highly skilled, such as managers, specialized employees,… would disappear.

Then it will not help in the same way to just bring more money or food to the area: the knowledge and skills needed lack to catch up with the region’s enormous skills shortage, it will take decades to even make any recovery. Let alone keep up with the normal extrapolation of the past.

Fortunately, we are not quite in this situation, although as far as healthcare is concerned, there is serious pressure.

From this short argument, which should actually be supported by figures, one can estimate that knowledge and skills are possibly the most important factors for a recovery after a huge crisis.

Governments have made huge financial sacrifices to allow some sectors to survive. “Golden rules” were also issued in Belgium. Some were very difficult, such as that of wearing a mask in several places, linked to social distancing. But there were also other rules that made us work differently where possible: working from home was sometimes recommended, sometimes (partially) mandatory.

Now I don’t know what other people experienced, some of us certainly miss the social chat with colleagues, which is certainly a loss to be mentioned, but there was also an advantage to mention. I speak for myself when I mention this, however, the days when I was working from home I was much more productive. I want to assume that this may have been the same for many people on such days. I sometimes went to my place of work, to relieve the social need, and those days my productivity was like an ordinary day before. However, I myself am only one ‘case’ and one cannot make a statistic on that, but it still inspired me to the following.

If, thanks to working from home, a number of people can do the “former” work of a week in 3.5 to 4 days, it would be interesting for both the employer and the employee to provide systematic training for these people. In a direct sense, this could include specialist training or employability-broadening training. But it is also possible to think indirectly: even matters that are not directly related to the ‘job’, such as training for many people in languages ​​or ICT applications, can indirectly inspire employees within or outside the job. And that will pay off for society, because during the aftercare phase of a crisis, every skill is super necessary.

Whatever it takes will be to perpetuate such work-and-learn behavior. Future generations will have to grow up with an implementation of lifelong learning, not just as a battle cry.

This is important to “not to let a good crisis go to waste”. Why ? I already wrote it: I read the book by Philippe De Backer, a former Belgian minister, “en nu is het oorlog” (And now it’s war). I took that statement literally. This means that if we can massively invest the time savings that we generate during this crisis in training, the knowledge and skills of the population will increase. The growth of production in the aftercare phase due to the grown creative capacity of more skilled personnel will find an engine in it to support it. As a result, economic growth will continue stronger for longer, and will help absorb some of the government’s financial injections. The flattening of economic growth will therefore slow down when we reach a higher level. And that could help curb potential future inflation.