The Risk (or Safety) Chain

You know the “value chain” where each market participant adds some value to a product from the time it starts out as raw materials until it becomes a finished product sold to a customer.

It’s time we added a similar notion called the “risk chain”, or to be positive the “safety chain”. Each organization in the chain would take responsibility for the safety of its output. So the farmer takes responsibility for crops he sells to the wholesaler, the wholesaler for the packaged food that he sells to the grocery store or restaurant, and then they take responsibility for what we buy and eat.

Does this mean testing at every step? Maybe. It certainly means that each link in the chain looks backward to the quality of their inputs and forward to the welfare of the end consumer. Not just for food … for health care, electronic gear, for all products and services that carry risks as well as benefits.

We may have the fleeting thought, “shouldn’t government be doing this?” Yes, and all lawmakers and regulators can reasonably do is hold the participants accountable for their parts.

So as the world shrinks and the value chain stretches around it,  a safety chain needs to go with it to protect the consumers far from their many suppliers.

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Risk or Fear?

How much risk is really fear dressed in fancy clothes?

It’s easy to list 10 things that could go wrong for every one that might go stunningly right. Overwhelmed by negatives, we may fall into the default “no action” by studying more and more options or allowing other priorities to grab our attention. Are these negatives risks or ways of expressing our fears?

Risk is about uncertainty. How likely is it that we’ll achieve our goal and what happens if we don’t? What are the specific threats and how can we overcome them? These are questions we can answer, leading to actions we can take.

Fears, visceral reactions to future possibilities, might be reactions to threats or general concerns about making changes. If heeded, they can freeze our ability to think and act.

Many of us work to protect what we have, rather than actively seek what we want – thinking there is safety in the status quo. Standing still, though, is really not an option because stillness is an illusion. Movement and change are our natural state – the attempt to avoid them is fraught with risk to the well-being of individuals and organizations.

Shining the light on our perceptions of risk can reveal  pathways for achieving our goals. Answering the key questions below sets the stage for success:

  • What do we want to achieve? Does this reflect our current circumstances?  How we can reconcile any conflicting priorities?
  • What do we need to know to make good decisions about how to proceed? What relevant information can we access quickly? How can we include a variety of data and opinions?
  • How can we measure progress and any changes in risk … then make any necessary course corrections?

Don’t be fooled by fears legitimized as risks. Knowledge can neutralize fears, reduce risk and uncover opportunities so you can move boldly toward your goal.