John Salter’s Blog

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  • When disasters hit, are plans important?

    Yes, no and maybe. It depends on what you think “plans” are.

    If having documentation in place which prescribes things to do – and looks a bit like the FROM column below – constitutes a “plan” – then NO.

    If having arrangements in place which will support you to assess impact, make informed decisions and implement those decisions effectively – and looks a bit like the TO column below – constitutes a “plan” – then YES.

    I recently completed a “submission form” for our business
    – and answered “NO”

    Why did I answer “NO”?

    Because we rely on an agile approach to business continuity.

    We live under the TO column (in the above Table).

    Our invitation? Engage – Explore the problem space with us
    Reference: McKinsey & Company
  • Mercedes’ fine compounded by loss of trust
    Headlines center on risk management failure

    Several costs come to mind.

    First – and strategically significant – is the loss of trust. The tarnishing of image.

    Trust is important when it comes to safety. When the safety risk is imposed by a faulty “safety feature”, then importance is increased exponentially.

    Second, sound management is something which ought to be able to be assumed at this level in crucial decisions. Instead we see a glaring example of poor contract management – with contractors failing to use attention-capturing, high/impact language required by the Recall Notice. Indeed, call-centre staff are cited as describing the recall as merely precautionary!

    The third compounder is a failure to understand risk management. Especially, risk communication. There are decades of lessons around risk communication which emphasise fundamental principles – such as respect and transparency. Principles which appear to have not informed the approach adopted by Mercedes.

    The $12.5m fine may be the least of the costs

  • In Decision Making, Context is King

    Before identifying options / solutions, first ensure a shared understanding of your objectives.

    The scope of the decision should be determined within the context of your organisational objectives.

    Identify your stakeholders (both internal and external) in relation to the scope of this decision and consider their concerns, issues and expectations.

    Core to the scope will be to set agreed criteria against which the options / potential solutions will be assessed.

    It is important to establish agreement on which criteria are more important than others by attributing a weight to them using a scale of zero to +/- ten.

    The attributed scores of each option against each of the criteria applies a scale of zero to ten.

    Quantitative vs Qualitative

    It is too simplistic to dismiss an approach which uses numbers. They can stimulate quantitative considerations.

    ‘YourOughtWe’ is a service to put customized ‘OughtWe’ apps up, on Apple and Google Stores, which meet the needs of your organisation – as specified by you in the *Service Features* displayed at and

    Guidance on the process of how to develop and shape the app to reflect your context and values is available at

    I encourage you to reflect and consider how a tailored decision making app might benefit you – both as a tool – and as a training and development process.

  • Facing the future with a child on a stick

    Widely recognised as a Leunig classic, his biting cartoon highlights the need for good decision making.

  • Balancing eggs in baskets …

    The adage cautions against putting all of your eggs in one basket.

    Reference – this weekend Financial Review

    A key food with many vulnerabilities.

    Empty shelves at Aldi today

    Manage your business continuity risks

    AgileBCP is scalable
    Supports small business for under $1,000
  • Resilience NSW – a reflection

    It would be useful if the business continuity plan for Resilience NSW was used transparently to rebuild the jigsaw based on achieving objectives.

    Or am I too much of an optimist?

  • Vulnerability is at the very heart of risk

    Addressing the “onion layers” – the underlying “why” – is an effective way of managing risk.

    It is YOUR VULNERABILITY. There is limited value in “leading the witness”.

    Far better to stimulate your reflection and considerations – of your context.

    It is in that spirit the whimsical images, prompts, and references below are provided.

    from De Bono …
    … to Kipling

    Concept: Risk as a function of hazard and vulnerability

    We are all vulnerable. Sometimes through exposure to the same thing. Sometimes to things to which we alone are exposed. Sometimes because of things that are about us – our characteristics or nature. Sometimes because of things that are imposed upon us by others..


    Unknown Unknowns

    Decision making

    Poor decision making
    Irresponsible Mountain Goats
    Unaccountable leadership
    “OughtWe” is a free app
    “Decision Making App” costs under $US5


    A single metaphor can trigger many reflections and considerations

    … can we live in (blissful / delusional) ignorance?
  • Manage your Sword of Damocles
    Damocles ponders his circumstances
    (part of painting Sword of Damocles” by Richard Westall, 1812)
    Start by considering your threats / hazards
    The internationally respected standard is a good place to start. Use it to filter which threats or hazards might be relevant to you.
    Don’t like the NFPA classifications and hazard categories? Fine – tailor your own.
    … and within the categories, add and edit specific hazards!
    Attribute a level of significance (on a scale up to ten) to the threats or hazards which made it through your initial “might be relevant” filter.
    We assess risk in order to better manage it.
    We are all variously vulnerable.
    Configure your report and communicate it!
  • Add silent scooters – and silent policy – as one of your hazards

    In Melbourne on the weekend I was nearly “cleaned up” a couple of times with near miss e scooter incidents. So I thought I’d do a quick check on some questions around whether it’s an issue in Melbourne – and elsewhere.

    The answer is YES

    Reference: The Age

    In England

    In Adelaide

    Reference: The Advertiser 12 July

    A hazard – whispering up behind

    – or alongside of you

    In a policy vacuum

    What to do? In the absence of clear policy and risk management oversight we are left to our own devices.

    Add e Scotters as one of your hazards.
    We are all differently vulnerable.
    Assess your vulnerability.
  • Future planning calls for good decision making
    Developers have not generally given significant weight to disaster prevention criteria. Climate change calls for a rethink – a recalibration.
    Interesting themes in Mike Foley’s piece

    One of the most interesting themes was Professor Howden highlighting the need for well thought through criteria to be applied to decision making.

    Professor Mark Howden
    Yes, we recommend you consider using our criteria based decision making app

It’s not rocket science

How often have you heard someone say that in a conversation? It may not be “rocket science” (that is to say “requiring the application of expertise”) to them, but it is just rude to be dismissive. It alienates and it isolates. It erodes respect. Things which are “not rocket science” are often just not very… Read More

How can “dry” subjects be communicated?

Effective communication is characterised by enthusiasm and focus – on the part of all involved. Too often this is not the case. Putting aside environmental influences (such as cold rooms and uncomfortable seats) I think there are three key variables: the “presenter” may be too distant, academic, or didactic. the “message or subject” may be… Read More

Can you manage uncertainty in three straightforward steps?

Management processes should always be as simple as possible – yet as complex as is necessary. First, clear, understandable, straightforward risk statements come out of mindful conversations about context. Second, we assess risks – not as an academic exercise – but in order to determine whether we need to do anything about those risks. So… Read More

Plans are nothing …

Emergency Planning for facilities is not straightforward. The “bog standard” linear, risk-based approach is a good start but context often brings complexities which require nuance. Layer over that the social and political dimensions (internal and external) and you start to explore the mire. Difficult questions arise – from the commitment of organisations to adequately resource… Read More

Standards are fine – unless they “bind”

The international standard for risk management, ISO 31000, provides principles and guidelines. When this standard is used as a heuristic device it can aid creative thinking. Heuristic devices can open up problems and opportunities however they are “double-edged swords” – something that can have both favourable or unfavourable consequences. The Standard is not a checklist.… Read More

A tale of fiascos and dilemmas – lessons from Bangladesh garment factories

Where there is inadequate management of risk during the implementation of a project the very outcome being sought is often compromised. That is now the case with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety which was a welcome initiative following the tragic deaths of five years ago. The Government has “found itself” short on factories… Read More

Are Templates Procrustean Beds?

The story of the “generous” Procrustes is an illustrative one. After offering hospitality to those in need, Procrustes either stretched the limbs of the short to fit his bed – or hacked those of the long, again, to fit his bed. Too often we see “guides” and “standards” parading as flexible tools – but with… Read More

‪ISO 31000:2018 PUBLISHED‬

The official text of the revision of the international ISO 31000 risk management standard has been published. MAIN CHANGES 1. The document is clearer and shorter – reduced from 20 to 16 pages 2. More importance is given in creating value and decision-making 3. The principles are better integrated into the framework and the process… Read More