Leaning towards a culture of risk accountability
By Therese Walsh, Jan 6th, 2015
TW Performance Solutions was invited to speak at a ‘Fraud in Finance’ conference in Jersey, Channel Islands in November last year. I feel compelled to write about this event for the following reasons:
- It was the 1st official engagement for TW Performance Solutions and therefore a key milestone for me!
- Linking ‘Fraud in Finance’ and ‘Lean’ gave me much food for thought, such as:
- Is it enough not to want to commit a fraud? Only a very small % of people set out to commit a fraud. In fact a greater % of people get involved in Fraud to cover up a mistake!
- Or should all employees feel accountable for operating in the most risk free environment possible in order to prevent fraud from occurring?
- And if so, how do Leaders make employees feel accountable for risk management? It is more likely that a manager’s ability to make people feel things is extremely limited. So why should feeling accountable be any different?
As it is extremely unlikely that Leaders can make people feel accountable, perhaps it is more appealing for them to make risk accountability a compelling offer for all employees.
So how might one do this and why use Lean methodologies?
Acknowledging that there are many, many ways to encourage accountability, I focused on 5 ways that have worked for me in the past:
- Let employees know how important their work is – speak with data / metrics
- Give them control over their own success – allow them to suggest and implement improvements
- Always recognize and reward good work
- Be consistent and fair with the above
- Structure work so that people owe things to one another – encourage teamwork
Lean is a way of thinking, a methodology that looks to simultaneously reduce 3 sources of imperfection– waste, variability and inflexibility. Each one will negatively impact the quality of the end output, productivity levels AND last but by no means least, employee morale. As you look to manage risks associated with fraud in finance, eliminating imperfections will greatly reduce the number of opportunities for people to commit fraud.
However, it is equally as important to focus on the infrastructure of an organisation and the people who work within it to truly embed and sustain a culture of control and continuous improvement.
In order to do this, people need to want to change. They need to feel involved and accountable. Over the past 5 years, I have seen unbelievable changes to team cultures as a result of the following 7 Lean tools and techniques:
- Capturing and sharing the right metrics – if I am responsible for being 100% accurate with my payments, how am I doing against the benchmarks?
- Visual management/ Team whiteboards – highlighting my progress and that of my team will go some way to making me feel more responsible
- Huddles – it’s great to get the opportunity to discuss problems and achievements as a team every morning
- Regular problem solving sessions – employees love being part of and involved in process improvement solutions
- Versatility matrices – a great tool for identifying training needs in teams
- Training & development plans (TDPs)
- Effective 121’s – As a Leader and employee, building out TDPs based on all of the above information will promote fact-based and supportive 121’s that will go some way towards making employees feel important, engaged and last but not least, accountable!
In conclusion, I am not talking about concepts and nice to have’s here. The introduction of all or even some of these practical tools & techniques will guarantee improvements to the effectiveness of any business & I have many case studies and results to prove this. Furthermore, these changes were not driven by the Leadership team or Risk and Control units. In every instance, these changes were implemented by the people on the ground doing the work day in and day out.
These tools and techniques introduce a way of thinking that invite and encourage people to do the best that they can to manage risks associated with fraud not because they are made to but because they want to!