Is Your Organisation in a Risk Vortex?

Risk Vortex Series Part 1

Is Your Organisation in a Risk Vortex?

In today’s business world, organisational risk seems virtually unavoidable. Have you found that you are properly assessing and managing risk, or is it continually dragging down your productivity levels? Is your organisation reducing risk effectively and efficiently, or are your people forced to abandon their core competencies in order to keep these risks at bay? Are you confident that risk management isn’t impeding your organisation’s ability to succeed in the marketplace?

You may feel bombarded by these questions, but they are important ones to answer. As a general rule, if an organisation is focusing heavily on risk, they are likely to find one specific thing – risk.

Many organisations with whom I’ve worked have found themselves trapped in what I like to call the “risk vortex.” They have lost sight of their main goals and guiding principles and have instead become obsessed with risk assessment and risk management. Their departments handling risk are growing at a larger rate and at times are seen as more important than other central business units. This is an expensive and inefficient way of doing business, ultimately hurting the bottom line.

How Does the Risk Vortex Affect an Organisation?

The risk vortex may start small, but it eventually finds a way to negatively affect the entire organisation. When a company spends too much time and too many resources focusing on risk, it also tends to create a restrictive work environment. These restrictions can make it particularly challenging for employees to carry out their core responsibilities.

This can be especially true if an organisation has heavy third-party regulatory obligations.  Managing expectations of industry, customer and other stakeholders can be challenging and can appear as a never-ending battle.  The consequences of not managing external and internal risk appropriately can have significant consequences for the organisation and for individual executives and employees.  The Australian Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry is a perfect example.  Not only does the fear of mismanagement strike a chord for executives, but the potential for reputational damage to the organisation and themselves, plus the heavy financial impact.

Are You Caught in the Risk Vortex?

Risk may sound scary, but once you seek to understand it, you will find that it is not the looming monster that you might expect.

The cave you fear to enter


To determine if you are falling victim to being pulled into a risk vortex, it is worth assessing if the management of risk is distracting your organisation from its core business. Being risk aware and risk conscious is important, but it must be appropriately weighted.

If you sense your business is focusing too heavily on navigating risk, that in itself could be elevating your organisation’s risk profile which will impede performance and impact revenue and reputation.

How to Escape the Risk Vortex

Take the time to invest to understand the types of risks your organisation needs to navigate and identify the right tools and approach.

Understand that when it comes to risk, it starts and ends with people.  It is human nature to protect ourselves against threats, so it is common for us to seek to understand our own vulnerabilities and work to lower risk. This is necessary for survival but focusing too much on it can lead to negative behaviours.

People want to control their risk factors and will often place emphasis on the integrity of an asset, such as a person, place, or thing (tangible or intangible). They will try to create an environment to reduce or avoid harm. It makes sense from a protection standpoint, but it is generally easier said than done.

Keep in mind people are not only at the centre of risk, but also the centre of any business. Employees, customers, and shareholders are all people who are affected by organisational decisions.

This means that people are also central to your escape from the risk vortex and navigating your way out.

Creating an environment that allows your people to feel safe in contributing to the organisations well-being, means they can become your risk sensors and actively participate to “protect the house”, your organisation.

If you create a “safe to succeed” environment that puts faith in your employees and eliminates the fear of failure, you will benefit from better engaged workers who put forth effort to succeed. It is your job to create a safe and supportive working environment rather than a harmful one. A safer working environment can reduce the organisation’s risk profile and lessen the risk vortex.


I’m sure none of this is exactly new to you, but I still feel that it is important to provide clarity. The main theme swirling around your head needs to be that people are central to business and risk. You don’t have to play this up as some sort of motivational statement – it is simply a fact. People are fundamental to business and navigating out of the risk vortex.

For additional perspective, let me share Unearth’s lens for viewing risk, which falls under two categories:

  • Risk to a person
  • Risk by a person

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

The person is always at the centre. Whether they are creating risk or being harmed by it, we must focus on our people. Every person will interpret situations in a different way, leading them to respond to threats in different ways. Our individual differences and experiences all shape who we are, and organisations can incorporate and leverage these differences.

These differences and experiences allow your organisation to come up with unique and effective ways to manage risk and solve problems through a balanced and pragmatic approach.

Culture plays an important part which is why we explore that further in upcoming blogs.

Keep Moving Forward

You may be thinking to yourself that you’ve done enough to protect your organisation from the risk vortex, which I can respect.  I do invite you to continue to look for ways to improve for the benefit of your organisation and its people.

Here is one topic to consider, a question really, that I would like for you to consider as it is vital to do a sanity check on, Is Your Advertised Organisational Culture Real?  This is the next topic in Part 2 of the Risk Vortex series.

If you have any thoughts or insights from this blog or any information we have provided, we would welcome hearing from you through

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