Image result for nhs logoAs the potential of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit increases the closer that we get to the March 2, 2019 date so the need to assess and make contingencies for the risks associated with it heightens.

A recent leaked email to NHS England boss Simon Stevens from NHS Providers, the group representing hospitals and ambulance services in England, says leaving the EU without agreement would immediately be a real risk to services.

The NHS is not alone in expressing concern with the uncertainty associated with the forthcoming change and there is no doubt that we will hear more and more similar concerns expressed from public and private organisations as we near the Brexit date without the clarity that is key to the continued successful future operation of UK based organisations.

Risk assessment is a key component of any change initiative in working through the ‘what if’ scenarios associated with its potential outcomes.

Many organisations have their own operational research departments. Operational Research (OR) is a mathematical discipline developed during WW1 to more accurately predict the outcomes of a variety of strategies, and in doing so to point to those strategies that might lead to the most success.

It is still widely used in the military as well as areas such as oil, utilities and food supply.

The range of problems and issues to which OR has contributed insights and solutions is vast and includes:
▪       Scheduling (of airlines, trains, buses etc.)
▪       Assignment of human resources (assigning crew to flights, trains or buses; employees to projects)
▪       Facility location (deciding most appropriate location for new facilities such as warehouse; factory or fire station)
▪       Hydraulics & Piping Engineering (managing flow of water from reservoirs)
▪       Health Services (information and supply chain management)
▪       Game Theory (identifying, understanding; developing strategies adopted by companies)
▪       Urban Design
▪       Computer Network Engineering (packet routing; timing; analysis)
▪       Telecom & Data Communication Engineering (packet routing; timing; analysis)

Today Operations Research can now solve problems with hundreds of thousands of variables and constraints. Moreover, the large volumes of data required for such problems can be stored and manipulated very efficiently.

While few organisations have invested in the capabilities associated with applying OR the development of cognitive software and hardware capabilities by well know organisations like IBM (Watson), Microsoft, Google and Amazon and a whole ecosystem of new and emerging organisations are applying their tools to big datasets in order to better identify those actions that are most likely to result in the most favourable outcomes.

As complexity and uncertainty increases, the ability of the human brain to see through the complexity to the simplicity that is present but perhaps not so obvious becomes more and more important.

One of the key roles of middle and senior managers within organisations is to perform the more complex work that is required, leaving the more simple and complicated work for those further down the chain.

Whether the source of the complexity is at the macroeconomic scale: Brexit, ACES (Autonomous, Connectivity, Electricification and Shared) in the automotive industry, restriction of supply in the Oil and Gas industry or more simply at the microeconomic scale: implementation of a new IT system, scaling up to a higher production level, or re-organising around an acquisition or consolidation,  organisations will need to develop accessible and affordable approaches to their assessment and decision making associated with the risks of their change initiatives.

The assessment of risk is a key part of all change projects and perhaps one that is not taken seriously enough – lessons for us all in ensuring successful change.

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