Risk Insider: Eric Copple

Managing Agendas

By: | March 10, 2016

Eric B. Copple CIC, CRM is a risk management adviser for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Throughout his 20 years of brokerage experience, he has helped clients build effective risk management systems to stay on the road to success. He can be reached at [email protected]

I once applied to handle risk management for a chimpanzee sanctuary. I felt especially qualified to manage risk for chimpanzees, having spent eighteen years on the brokerage side of the insurance business.

The director began the interview by espousing the virtues of the organization, its mission, the facilities, and especially the chimpanzees. A facility tour followed, where the best and the brightest were on display to exemplify the perfect happiness, autonomy, and function of the organization.

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As we rounded a turn, the director pointed out a chimp named Louie. Louie seemed very friendly, and began waving before we were even within 20 yards. Wanting to show that I fit in, and in fact, was already an insider, I waved back at Louie enthusiastically, and expressed my amazement at his friendly demeanor.

The director replied that in reality, Louie was not especially friendly. Louie had an armpit fetish and was always interested in getting a visitor to wave so that he could admire a new armpit!

Organizations owe it to their shareholders, employees, and customers to be sold out to the accomplishment of their mission; then the purpose and the tasks become clear.

As my hand began to drop to my side, Louie became agitated with my non-compliance, and began to scream and hurl objects at our golf cart. The director continued her gushing praise of the organization and their clients, as if her previous revelation was not strange at all.

I began to question the basis for my expertise in behavior-based risk-management. I knew of root-cause behaviors, but this was something different: Louie had an agenda.

Like Louie, people have agendas. Those agendas often drive their actions and behaviors.

Organizations also have an agenda or a mission, but this does not always drive the actions and behaviors of people. If an organization is still passionate about its mission, it needs to be intentional about aligning the agendas and behaviors of its employees and others around that mission. This is called culture building, and although culture is a buzzword in management right now, it rarely gets the attention it deserves from the risk management department.

Aligning or influencing behaviors is essential to culture building. And culture building is essential to managing risk.

I heard Atlanta-based author and pastor Andy Stanley tell a group of church leaders, “Preaching doesn’t create behaviors, systems do.”

I see very few organizations formally creating systems to influence behaviors.  Stanley went on to say that effective systems must include an allotment for the behaviors of those in charge, rewards (or lack thereof), consequences (or lack thereof), and communication content and style.

I believe that a mission-oriented organization must actively build systems to produce the behaviors it wants out of the people for whom it is responsible.

It seems that much like the human world, Louie the chimpanzee had a personal agenda. When the agenda of the organization, or in his case the visitors to his habitat, did not comply, he became uncooperative and belligerent.

When organizations are not creating systems to align behaviors behind their mission, they allow too much leeway for personal agendas to take the lead.

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Organizations owe it to their shareholders, employees, and customers to be sold out to the accomplishment of their mission; then the purpose and the tasks become clear.

Is your organization at risk of being controlled by personal agendas? Well thought-out culture building systems could be your best risk-management tool.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]