• Resilience in the face of uncertainty: Early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

      Bryce, Cormac; Ring, Patrick; Ashby, Simon; Wardman, Jamie (Journal of Risk Research, 2020)
      The transboundary dynamics of COVID-19 present an unprecedented test of organisational resilience. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS), a talisman of collective fortitude against disease and illness, has struggled to cope with inadequate provision of virus tests, ventilators, and personal protective equipment needed to fight the pandemic. In this paper, we reflect on the historic dynamics and strategic priorities that have undermined the NHS’s attempts to navigate these troubled times. We invoke the organisational resilience literature to address ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of preparedness in readiness and response to the current pandemic. In particular, we draw on Meyer’s (1982) seminal work on ‘adaptation to jolts’, excavating current preparedness failings. We argue an overreliance on perceived efficiency benefits of ‘lean production’ and ‘just in time’ continuity planning superseded strategic redundancy and slack in the system. This strategic focus was not simply the result of a failure in foresight, but rather a failure to act adaptively on knowledge of the known threats and weaknesses spotlighted by earlier projections of an inevitable pandemic threat. In conclusion, we consider how the UK Government and NHS must now undergo a phase of ‘readjustment’ in Meyer’s terms, in light of these failings. We suggest that independent responsibility for national future preparedness should be handed to the NHS free from political interference. This would operate under the umbrella of a national emergency preparedness, resilience and response public body, enshrined in law, and similar in governance to the current Bank of England. This will help ensure that foresight is accompanied by durability and fortitude in safeguarding the UK against future pandemic threats.
    • Risk and peformance: Embedding risk management

      Ashby, Simon; Bryce, Cormac; Ring, Patrick (2019)
      A new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) uncovers how board-level risk management activities vary in organisations as a result of internal and external factors. The report, Risk and performance: Embedding risk management, highlights common challenges and good practices to overcome risk management difficulties. The research was conducted by Professor Simon Ashby (Vlerick Business School), Professor Cormac Bryce (Cass Business School) and Professor Patrick Ring (Glasgow Caledonian University). The study combines findings from four in-depth case studies including interviews as well as a review of current academic literature. The insights were consolidated to create the ‘risk gearbox’, a conceptual model for embedding risk management in organisations. It shows how formal and informal risk management mechanisms combine to create ‘strategic thrust’ to support the board decisions on strategic risk taking and control. There are also a number of recommendations for organisations looking to improve the effectiveness of their risk management arrangements.
    • Risk and the strategic role of leadership

      Ashby, Simon; Bryce, Cormac; Ring, Patrick (2018)
      Risk and risk management have always been at the heart of concerns about leadership. In this report, we explore the role of boards in the risk management of the organisations they lead.
    • Risk as threat and opportunity: The institutional logics of board risk management

      Ashby, Simon; Bryce, Cormac; Ring, Patrick (2020)
      Organisations make strategic decisions in a world of uncertainty, and their success or failure depends on their ability to organize this uncertainty and exploit or mitigate the associated risks. At the apex of this risk-strategy nexus is the board of directors. We use the institutional logics perspective to investigate how board directors make sense of and act on their authority and accountability for risk management in an environment of conflicting social identities and goals that are bounded by limited resources and cognition. Through the analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews with executive and non-executive directors we find that boards are struggling to reconcile competing supra-organisational logics of ´risk as opportunity´ and ´risk as threat´. Many boards adopt a ‘governance and compliance’ logic for risk management, emphasizing threat reduction/value protection over the exploitation of opportunities/value creation. A very few opt for a ‘strategic-swashbuckling’ logic that gives primacy to value creation via opportunity exploitation. We also find evidence of a nascent ‘appetite aware’ logic, rooted in the object of the risk appetite statement and spread by directors acting as cultural entrepreneurs. Discovery of the appetite aware logic adds to the evidence on logic modularisation and the ability of cultural entrepreneurs to act as change agents by transferring elements of institutional orders from one situation to another. We find that the introduction of a risk appetite statement can influence board risk narratives and management practices."