Kicking Risk’s Bottom

What is the job of a risk manager? Well, it is basically to kick people in the bottom for being careless, before the carelessness causes real slip-ups. Or to be more precise, the job of a risk manager is to implement a process by which people get kicked in the bottom for being careless. Or, to be more precise, it is to implement a framework where: processes identify what bottoms exist; other processes analyse how far the bottoms stick out; other processes prioritize which bottoms to correct first; and other processes decide whether to kick the bottom on the right cheek, to smack the bottom on the left cheek, to leave the bottom as is, to give somebody else the bottom, to eat more and grow a bigger bottom, or to completely stop eating and avoid the need for a bottom. Then we step back, look at the new aggregate levels of bottomage, and decide if bottom curvature is in line with stakeholder expectations.

You could solve most people’s risk misconceptions by observing that every risk is just like a bottom. Bottoms are useful and they serve a purpose. Without bottoms, life would come to an end. The right bottom can be very attractive. Some want more bottom, and some want less bottom. If a bottom does not fit into a pair of jeans, then you eventually have to face reality and either go on a diet or purchase a new pair of jeans. Flattering clothes and averted eyes can reduce the attention paid to oversized bottoms, but we would be fools to deny the existence of the bottom. However discretely, every bottom needs to be handled from time to time; wait too long and you will find yourself sitting in a stinking mess. There are a lot of bottoms that people are averse to, but there will be some bottoms that people actively seek. And some people feel uncomfortable talking about bottoms. However, not talking about bottoms does not make them any less real.

Since Nassim Taleb popularized black swans, people are now accepting that we have not paid enough attention to bottoms. In fact, we chronically underestimated the gross weight of bottoms in circulation, because we were only ever counting bottoms on the occasions when somebody had their trousers pulled down in public. But, in recent years, bottoms have got a lot more exposure, mostly because of economic belt-tightening and increased transparency. The result is that businesses and even governments are increasingly conscious of the need for proactive bottom strategies. So risk managers must take the lead with changing attitudes to bottoms. And what is the alternative? None. Kick risk’s bottom, or risk being branded an arse.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.   Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.   Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.
  • Eric,

    This bottom business has got me curious. On the one hand, we know when a telecom marketing department gets too aggressive and creates a ton of services without minding the bottom line profitability of those services, the business could sink.

    Then there’s the opposite scenario — the operator gets too cautious. It starts to cut corners by thinning down the ranks of the RA and fraud department, opening the door for negative black swans to fly in and do some damage.

    So being too aggressive and too penny-pinching are both wrong, but for the life of me, how does risk department balances those things? They seem like apples vs. oranges.

    How do you decide where to put the bottom ballast to keep the telecom ship sailing on an even keel?

    To those of us not initiated in the dark art of risk management, an analogy to the real world would be most helpful. In the meantime, I tip my glass to you. Bottoms up.

    Dan Baker