Risk & Safety - How Can A Football Analogy Help?


In a rapidly changing and digitising world, we need to be more agile, adaptable and resilient - as professionals and businesses.


Risk management (and health and safety, in particular) has often been viewed as a tactical necessity rather than strategic imperative. A cost to be avoided, a reason to exercise control and maintain the status quo. We need to avoid bad things happening whether accidents, losses or prosecutions. There are laws, standards and policies and we need functional teams to help us with 'compliance.'


Yes, there are obligations to meet and governance is required. However, out of fear or a desire to 'tick that box' a 'compliance mindset' can often be witnessed through language from leaders such as:


  • "Are we compliant?"

  • "Are we legal?"

  • "Are we safe?"

In this context and as closed questions, they are leading and infer requirement of a "yes" or "no" response. On the surface, they reduce our complex world to a facade of simplicity. The reality is likely to be much more nuanced. How can the answer to the CEO of a multinational logistics business operating 24 / 7 throughout the year be a simple "Yes?".


If we take a football analogy, this is a defensive approach.


It's the equivalent of 11 people 'behind the ball' - a goalkeeper and a wall of 10 players in defence trying to avoid conceding a goal. Settling for a final score of 0-0 is a result because nothing bad happened - we didn't concede a goal. It may play to the strengths of some though it invites pressure from the opponents and is tiring. Many are not adding the value which they otherwise could. There may be heroes who clear the ball off the line but it remains stressful and desperate.


This isn't creating a winning mentality. In the English Premier League, for instance, such a team would be relegated at the end of the season with 1 point per game for a draw.

How might a #growthmindset play out differently? One where risk management is viewed as a strategic enabler for growth and innovation, with a core of governance?


Business is all about people, isn't it? The brand and reputation for service to consumers, relationships, throughout the supply chain, the vibrancy of the whole organisation motivated to help the business achieve goals. Positive energy mobilised around innovation and learning.


In this approach, the team has structure and tactics (i.e. governance). There are various positions across defence, a midfield, and the forwards. Each has strengths related to the position (e.g. professions) though there is fluidity and interplay between each (i.e. collaboration). The manager and team will take account of their next opponents (responding to the external environment) yet will have their passion to win (learn and grow). The final score could be 0-0 but the collective aim is 1-0.


A new manager may inherit a relegation-threatened team and need to 'shore up the defence' before the entertaining, title-winning football can be played. Similarly, businesses need to start where they are. It can take businesses with a 'compliance mindset' a serious incident or prosecution before they explore more progressive approaches. It doesn't need to be this way.


Are you ready today to learn how Red Laces consultancy can help your business today? To quickly solve complex risk and safety problems and develop your strategic capability for agility, adaptability and resilience?


If so, contact us to start a conversation via the quick link on our website or info@redlaces.co.uk


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