Risk Kerfuffles

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Risk Governance, Leadership

A risk kerfuffle is a commotion or fuss that occurs when an individual becomes politically motivated to question the reality of checks and balances in governance because it does not fit their own agenda. Kerfuffles are increasingly utilized by governing officials who are not familiar with the gears of how governance works. They are like a fairy tale that if repeated enough becomes normalized through social media.

Confused? Let’s work. rough an explanation of kerfuffles together to measure their impact on the insurability of risk governance.

Civilizations since the dawn of time have built their foundations of governance based upon rules of law that continually build upon themselves as society evolves. These rules of law help establish parameters for the governance of society. They give structure to how we live, work and play. They provide foundations for thought processes that are only as good as humanity understands and accepts them. It is a cycle of risk – a constant evolution of law and the protocols needed for them to persevere.

Governance works when there is acceptance of an agreed upon set of policies, programs, and protocols – the “three P’s” that give guidance as to how we might interact and function as a society to keep dysfunction at a minimum and our global economy running like a well-oiled machine. We need to think globally because the earth is truly a small place in the context of the universe. Governance often fails when it gets skewed to serve specific opinions and/or viewpoints that the populus does not accept as its reality.

Still with me?

Risk professionals embrace “policies, programs, and protocols” because they give structure to coping with the totality of the operations of government, community, and people. They believe in order instead of an everyone for themselves mentality. Risk professionals are team centric. They need people to embrace common goals to bring sanity to governance. Policies, programs, and protocols are like the Webster dictionary in that they assist with defining and giving structure to issues as they arise. Remember, any good dictionary has multiple meanings for each of its entries. As new phrases or euphemisms arise, they become the norm. That is what we might call diversity and inclusivity today. Good governance evolves with the dynamics of change.

For the three P’s to make a material difference in the totality of any risk, they need to be reviewed, approved, and accepted as sound operational practices. In the public sector, that usually means they must be approved by a governing body for them to be used. In the private sector, approval of the three P’s lies with boards of directors or chief operating staff. These three P’s are almost always a product of democratic processes that involve multiple stakeholders and are adopted through consensus. Authoritarian attempts for the three P’s often fail because quite frankly who wants to be told what to do without having been included in the process.

Policies, programs, and protocols rooted in the rules of law assist with making you a sexy risk for insurability. Property and casualty insurers love a good “policy, program and protocol” manual. It’s like a NYTimes best seller. It signifies to them that you have structure in your operations and effective risk ownership in your partnerships as you manage the totality of your risks – both external and internal that may impact your governance.

Employees in the public and private sector traditionally embrace an established “policy, program, and protocol” manual because it gives them structure and a resource to use when doing their assigned tasks. The established structure assists in minimizing mistakes or claims that may occur when an operational risk goes bad. An entity’s insurability is sexy when those same employees proactively work the manual and offer opportunities for improvement to better streamline operations. Streamlined operations enable profit and sexiness in the insurance market….and that gives sexy to any risk.

Ready for the kerfuffle?

Risk kerfuffles occur when rhetoric is more important than governance. Think of those smoke bombs you see in the movies. The ones folks use to mask an escape from reality. For example, a governing body accepts a “policy, program, and protocol” manual as its standard practice. The expectation is that if you are responsible for governing employees of an organization, you have read the approved manual. The employees under your supervision have an expectation that you are following the same three P’s they are because they want the governing official to understand they are doing their job like they are supposed to.

Governing officials who have not taken the time to learn their organization’s operational standards do their organization a disservice. It is a lack of respect for the rule of law that came before them. Officials mired in political intrigue often use rhetoric to hide the fact that are not capable of their responsibility. To mask their inabilities, they often place blame on employees that pride themselves in cost effectively managing agreed upon standards to ensure the organization runs effectively. It is a foolhardy approach that creates animosity and distrust. If unchecked, it has the potential of leading an organization on a journey that makes them uninsurable.

Let us be clear; leadership tragically fails when a governing official stands on a soap box declaring a kerfuffle when in fact the standard operating protocols have been met.

Policies, programs, and protocols have been increasingly politicized in recent years with the hysteria of the recent pandemic, its emergency sanctions, and proclamations. The events have materially affected the reality of historical governance standards. Governance also continues to take a hit in social media interactions. Public risk governance is on the path of creating an increasing financial hardship for community members who see their dollars shrinking because public officials find more time to speak rhetoric or kerfuffles to the social masses instead of dealing with the substance of the issues at hand.

My first-hand experience with risk kerfuffles lies in an official’s unfamiliarity with their own governing responsibilities. Note to leadership, if you are new to an administrative position and have no experience within the sector you manage, it helps to read the same previously adopted policy, program, and protocol manual your employees are following. Better yet, before standing on any declaring a kerfuffle, try communicating with the folks who are responsible for helping you be successful in managing your processes and the ones who helped write those three P’s.

It is not okay for governing officials to declare a kerfuffle and criticize an established process if they have no idea how that process works or did not take the time to review the issue before commenting on it.

Each of us as leaders has a responsibility to ethically follow the established rules of law and do so with integrity and balance. Soapbox rhetoric for an easily fact checked kerfuffle is damaging to the organization and the community it serves. More importantly, if you are responsible for the financial integrity of your organization, any individual governing official’s soapbox kerfuffle may have a material impact upon an organization’s budget and insurability.

Governing officials need to ask themselves whether an on-camera kerfuffle is worth their reputation and leadership when the bill comes due for their one moment of fame in the spotlight. A risk kerfuffle can be deadly to an organization’s finances and easily manipulated in social media till the end of time. Leadership needs to ask itself if that one kerfuffle is worth social media eternity for having cost their organization millions of dollars. Risk and safety professionals understand that kerfuffles have no place in the totality of the risk they ethically manage because they embrace the rule of law and work for their organizations and their communities, not themselves.