To make headway with risk culture, engage middle managers – first

Kin Ly
2 min read
Jul 29, 2020

If you’re working on risk culture, your starting point may ordinarily begin with engaging senior executives and the board.

Get their buy-in and support.

This is a good logical step. But recently, risk managers have been considering other avenues to build that ‘early buy-in’. And that is, start with middle managers.

Here are 8 takeaways from a recent discussion for why you should engage middle managers:

  1. Middle managers and team leaders are key to developing this understanding, and a good risk leader will engage these managers and ask them what type of environment they are working in. Surveys, focus groups and confidential interviews can help to improve this understanding.
  2. Top meets the bottom through middle management and that is often where the block is in the communication of an organisation’s overall culture, particularly within individual pockets of sub-culture.
  3. While a good risk manager may intuitively know where the problem areas lie within an organisation’s sub-cultures, the buy-in of middle management is still essential for any effective cultural change programme.
  4. Middle managers can often favour the status quo as that is how they have been successful in the past. Incentivising those people to change is key.
  5. Leaders may have power as a result of their hierarchical position, but it is those key influencers within an organisation – individuals who are liked and respected by their peers and others – who have the power to best effect change.
  6. Middle managers can help identify these key influencers who are pulling the threads of people’s behaviour, as well as the informal networks that will help disseminate the changes needed to align the risk culture with the organisation’s overall purpose and strategy.
  7. It is important to specifically  ask middle managers what they can or actually are doing,  or can or actually doing, as individuals to help improve organisational culture, as this can then lead to change programmes that that individual manager can personally sponsor, promote or endorse.
  8. If an organisation has limited resources to put towards a cultural change programme, an obvious issue that many risk managers will face in the wake of COVID-19 and the economic uncertainty it has created, focusing on middle management and team leaders is often the most effective route because that affects sub-culture most directly.

Of course, this is just a peep into the numerous case studies, tools and templates we have on risk culture. There’s much more on our Intelligence platform. To find out more, get in touch with me:

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