Tony Hunter (pictured) explains the steps Liverpool’s community services team has taken to formulate a system for effective risk management
In well-led organisations, senior managers are determined to root out and give credit to those staff who have gone that extra mile in delivering the vision, which should be shared and instilled at all roles and levels, not guarded at the top.
Here, in Liverpool community services, our rewards and recognition scheme applauds the efforts of a staff member who has kept someone at home during a time of crisis, or has helped an elderly person share their experiences with local school pupils, for example. Time celebrating what is good is time well spent.
In Liverpool we’re looking at what will be the hallmarks of a risk-based approach to management. First, managers should have sound quality and performance systems in place as the foundation for service plans. They should be able to show that these systems operate consistently and effectively, with a proper profile and not as an add on to day-to-day life in the team. How far this can be shown will tell senior managers where to direct their most visible effort, and in ways which are proportionate to the type and level of concern. For example, if an adult protection team cannot demonstrate how good practice is assured then the case for detailed attention is strong.
Second, senior managers must be able to justify why time and attention is being allocated as it is, and be clear about their own accountability too, not only for organisational achievement but also for good management practices. They must not be seen as operating on anecdote, grace or favour, but on the basis of clear vision and knowledge of what is happening in the organisation.
Third, people throughout the organisation must be able to recognise senior managers’ consistent approach. It is difficult to instil a focus on clear vision and direction if the means of getting there, through managers and staff, are not seen as predictably and fairly applied.
Fourth, the basis on which senior managers judge a team’s performance should be open and not over-complex. In the best organisations, where goals are owned at all roles and levels, managers and staff contribute to the frameworks and assumptions senior managers are using to determine how to use their time to best effect. For example, busy managers should know why certain information is requested at regular intervals and how it will be used by senior managers. This is so important. We all know how frustrating it is to be completing returns for no obvious benefit, especially when really busy.
Fifth, it’s important that managers under the microscope are clear on which aspects of delivery are being targeted for improvement and that the focus remains on that rather than becoming more diffuse. Of course, on diagnosis the reasons for the problems may be wider, in which case a shift of emphasis may take place. But what’s examined must not be experienced as arbitrary.
Risk management can therefore become a mechanism for strong and effectively focused leadership in organisations. And given the ever-growing demands and pressures on managers at all levels, a risk-based approach is geared to best possible use of management time and resources.
Tony Hunter is executive director, community services, Liverpool CouncilThis article appeared in the 31 January issue under the headline “Risk-based approach can hold the key to strong leadership”