Successful risk management depends on the quality of your dialogues

What if your risk assessments were continuously re-assessed by your teams?

  • And, every voice was heard in the process?
  • And, you had real-time feedback on concerns and uncertainties?
  • And, the project had a strong, shared culture of commitment?

Two years ago, we developed the Bowtie Dialogue Kit in close collaboration with global clients and later CGE Risk, to help teams all over the globe achieve this ‘dream scenario’. The kit facilitates ongoing, actionable risk assessments with all involved parties – both high and low. Because no single person or profession can comprehensively answer the question: ‘What is most likely to go wrong at this point?’

Imagine starting a complex project

Let’s say resuming operations after a Corona-lockdown, or expanding a highway over a treacherous wetland, or building an offshore wind farm close to a shipping lane. Anything that your current, particular team of collaborators has not done before.

You call in the experts, and they all agree to work together on this exciting project. Now, you’re at one of the planning meetings where experienced hands are swapping stories, while the rookies claim their relevance by bringing up new ideas. How do you make sure that all relevant perspectives receive due attention?

We, respectfully, suggest that you and your project will benefit from the kind of highly structured dialogue that emerges from a repeated bowtie approach. Everybody perceives risks differently, and a diverse team where everyone – not just the usual loud voices – is heard will provide crucial information to the risk assessment process. You need dialogues of high quality to deliver high-quality risk management. So, how can you do that, in practice?

Listen to the outliers and quantify differences

When assessing risks it is paramount to avoid serial dialogues, where the louder voices tend to drown out the newcomers, introverted people, etc., and different perspectives lose their potential impact by our common human reluctance to stand out. We’ve professionalized the facilitator’s way through many years of designing parallel dialogues within HSE- and the same guidelines are now reflected in the Bowtie Dialogue Kit. We’ve made an easy-to-follow process to both capture and quantify differences: Each participant secretly rates the mutually agreed upon highest threats on the bowtie with a simple, six-sided dice – before revealing everyone’s rating and basing the dialogue on them.

Keep the risk assessment alive

Unfortunately, sometimes thorough and complex risk assessments are made only to sit in a stowed-away file that is not often accessed again once operations begin. We designed the kit to counter this tendency in risk management processes, and we’ve seen it work because of the continuous use of action sheets that ‘capture the moment’ and help teams turn their dialogues into decided actions. At each session, the team records the date, location, high-level threats as well as the individual ratings of these threats. Everybody commits to brief, concrete actions for the areas and initiatives with the highest impact. Actions that have to be realized before the next session with the Bowtie Dialogue Kit, which then again translates into new actions, and so on. The reusing of action sheets keeps it short and simple.

Create a shared culture and continuous onboarding

It is important to note that the Bowtie Dialogue Kit is not a game and has no competitive elements. In fact, it has been designed to break down any competitive elements there may exist between the parties involved, for the sake of the most rewarding dialogues possible. In our experience, it creates a proactive culture of thinking with the end in mind, because all parties involved continuously gauge the project and risk assessments through the Bowtie Dialogue sessions.

Bring the dialogues on-site

The Bowtie Dialogue Kit facilitates dialogue across hierarchies, organizations, and locations between people on a common project. Even though the bowtie shape on the dialogue board will be easily recognizable to many, prior knowledge of the framework is not necessary. We wanted to make the bowtie framework easily accessible to everyone for the risk assessments to be quality assured and rich, and to make it practical to use for both project managers, team leads, and foremen alike. Only the facilitator, who has been trained in using the kit, needs to be experienced in working within the Bowtie framework.

Who are we (to talk to you about risk management)?

The dialogue kit was- and is continuously – co-created by BlueBehavior and Lisbeth Holberg. Through decades of facilitation, we’ve seen organizations in high-risk industries struggle to keep brilliant assessments alive. So we joined forces to help counter this tendency.

  • BlueBehavior, and Ulrik Ramsing, with two decades of leadership and safety facilitation from large global industries
  • Lisbeth Holberg with extensive experience in training activities and risk management in oil & gas, wind farms, maritime, power plants, etc.

See how it works

If you’d like to apply the Bowtie Dialogue Kit

Organization? Reach out to us and let’s talk about how the kit can be introduced to your organization. Please visit our website, book an online meeting, or join a free webinar. Our onepager may be a good place to start when sharing the idea with your colleagues.

© BlueBehavior & Lisbeth Holberg. 2020 – The copyright of the content of this guest blog belongs to BlueBehavior & Lisbeth Holberg who has authorized CGE Risk Management Solutions B.V. to provide this content on its website.