13 December 2015

Beware of the Cowboy: Risk Driven by Fear...

Beware of the cowboy.  Operational Risk Management (ORM) spans the hazards on the flight deck on the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) or behind enemy lines or even to employee behavior on the front lines of the private sector on Wall Street:
"The recent conviction of Michael Coscia in the Federal District Court in Chicago in the first prosecution for “spoofing” provides more clarity to high-frequency trading firms about how they can operate. The message is to tread carefully when a strategy depends on using orders that will be quickly canceled because the government may claim they are an effort to manipulate the market by fooling others into trading.

Spoofing was made illegal in the Dodd-Frank Act, which prohibits “bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution.”
Believe it when we say that people who try to be cowboys in your organization are operating without regard to risk. Now multiply the number of cowboys by the number of people that they surround on their team, who think that this is the way to operate. It doesn't take long to find out that these are the root causes of many of the operational risks in your organization. And it starts out with the basics even in the vast private sector beyond Wall Street:
  • Revenue is not booked according to the rules. Products sit in the warehouse yet revenue ends up on the sales reps commission report because (s)he had a signed order.
  • Assets are not valued correctly. Bank accounts are not validated to make sure they actually exist and accounts receivables are inflated.
These are just two of the many facets of occupational fraud that starts with a few cowboys who have little regard for managing risk and all the incentives to line their pockets with new found cash or bonuses.

From Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALS

The Cowboy
"Neither of us knows if such a thing has ever been tolerated in modern commando teams. Yes, sometimes you need to charge forward. But, there are simply too many potential casualties and too much political currency resting on commando missions to entrust one to a cowboy. Authorization for an operation depends on the accurate calculation of operational risk. This requires an assessment of proven forces ability to perform a task. All this is contrary to the cowboy philosophy of depending on experimentation, pluck, and luck in order to succeed."
"The problem with being a cowboy is that your bosses won't employ you if they can't trust you, and they can't trust you if they don't know what you'll do. And then you're stuck with the reputation."
        --LT. CMDR. Jon Cannon

You might think that the reason is ego or just plain greed. However, the real motive may not be so clear. More than likely, the motive is fear. And that fear is something that grows until it gets to the point of creating harm, loss and destruction. You have to find the cowboys in your organization and you have to follow the mantra of quality gurus from years past, "Drive out Fear".

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