When Keith Baxter published his book Fast Track to Success: Risk Management, I tweeted to him I would read it during the Christmas break last year then review it. At that time I was about halfway through 4100 pages of Harry Potter novels and had a hard time putting down that series to read a muggle’s risk management book no matter how good it was.
Eventually I started reading Baxter’s book on my train ride to work but then I put it down, read a novel, then read some more a few weeks later or referred to some chapters when at the office. Then it hit me. That’s how one is supposed to read this sort of book. It’s not a novel set in Sweden with a journalist and a computer hacker with a beginning, middle and end, like risk management itself, reading this book is an ongoing process.
The book is based on Baxter’s ABCD model: Assumption Based Communication Dynamics. He explains:
“This is not a book about implementing a fully integrated ABCD process. This is a book about the principles of ABCD. What I have tried to do is take the fully integrated ABCD process and extract the valuable nuggets that allow you to apply some or all of its principles as you choose.
If you have an existing risk management process that you are committed to using, you can integrate the principles that work for you.”
And there it is. That is precisely how I felt I should be using this book and I have. I took my existing risk management program and applied some of his nuggets, some of which are posted on my wall beside my desk for easy reference.
The first is the quote: “What are the things you need to happen in order to be successful?” There are popular risk management frameworks which address alignment of risks with organizational objectives, but this one sentence in all of its succinct glory has helped me see much more clearly.
The next key takeaway is what he calls Assumptions. I have to be honest; I had a hard time with this word. (Maybe it’s a language thing like “lorry”, “chemist” or “lift” which are not used in North America like they are in England.) Despite the term, I quite appreciated the concept for describing risks relative to its objectives and have adopted this nugget. For example, instead of describing a health and safety risk generically, “Risk of personal injury to employees or visitors on our property”, I’ve documented it as an objective: “We will maintain a safe work place for employees and visitors.” None of our tasks or action plans have changed, but the alignment to this statement has created more focus and buy-in.
Finally, the biggest nugget to me was the use of Covey’s Urgent-Important matrix. I was familiar with this 2×2 from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I never thought of applying it to risk management before. I actually have a copy of this image below on my wall and look at it when I have my risk management hat on. (Keith, please ask your publisher not to sue me for copyright infringement.) When I analyze the tasks people are spending their time on and they fall in the upper-left quadrant, then I appreciate this is effort well spent.
To read Keith Baxter’s book, you can order it from retailers like Amazon but if you cannot wait to enjoy his work, have a read at his website and blog http://de-risk.com/home.htm right now.