Today is my first day back at my desk after 3 weeks in Italy. (I’ve never visited Italy before, and the food and wine are everything they’re cracked up to be).
Our last stop was Venice, the famous ‘City of Canals’ built on more than 100 small islands. There are no roads, just waterways, and no vehicles. Building a city on water obviously has its disadvantages (and risks), but after hundreds of years, the Venetians have learned how to manage the delicate balance between the water and the city.
When the Watery City becomes even more watery
At certain times of the year, Venice can experience the ‘Acqua Alta’. The watery city becomes even more watery when a high tide occurs and floods the streets. The first records of Acqua Alta date from the 6th Century, so the flooding risk is hard-wired into the life of the city.
How does Venice manage?
Risk management uses a ‘Hierarchy of Controls’ – 5 steps that can be used, ordered from least effective to most effective.
First is elimination. Even the clever Venetians can’t stop the tides, so that step is out. Substitution I guess would involve shifting the city – also not an option. Engineering controls are used. Venice now has some huge floodgates that rise up from the sea bed when abnormal tides are expected. Admin controls would be the warning system that sounds when an Acqua Alta is expected. Last of all is PPE – personal protective equipment. Yes, the Venetians have rubber boots, and throughout the city you will encounter piles of equipment like this.
These are temporary raised walkways, or ‘passerelle’. They are constructed quickly when a warning is given so people can get around without wading in water.
What is YOUR Acqua Alta?
We will all have some version of Acqua Alta in our own businesses – some risks that are hard-wired in, and impossible to eliminate. The trick is to identify them, then do our best to manage them – just like Venice. They will be different for every business, but here’s a few off the top of my head:
- Natural disasters – the variety depends upon where you are located.
- Divorce. One-third of Australian marriages end in divorce.
- Employees. Will they stay or go? Will they be suitable?
- IT security. Some may say elimination is possible, but the criminals always seem to get smarter.
- Financial. Interest rates, economic cycles …
- Health. None of us last forever!
Then there will be some that are particular to your company, industry or location. One that we face in our environmental consultancy is the continual change in administrative requirements by big clients. I swear they have regular meetings at which their sole agenda is how to make life more difficult for contractors! (Our management tool is also administrative – we make sure ALL time required to comply is captured and charged back to the client).
How ready are you for potential business risks?
My purpose in writing and talking about risk is not to frighten you. My sole purpose is to bring some of this stuff to your attention so you can act to protect yourself, your business, and those who depend upon you.
Here is step one. Take the “Are you ready to face a business crisis” Quiz. I wrote it specifically for SME owners and managers, based on my own experience. The intent of the quiz is to give you an idea where you need to be looking, and perhaps taking action.
Avoid ‘Avoidance Coping’
I introduced this term in my September 2023 email, but it’s a concept well worth reinforcing. Humans can get overwhelmed when we face things or issues that are difficult or overwhelming, and react by ignoring them. That’s what Avoidance Coping is, and it doesn’t fix anything. It just makes things worse.
To avoid Avoidance coping, schedule an Unpack and Prioritise session. It’s 90 minutes where we can quickly identify the biggest categories of risk you are facing, and identify where you need to start looking first.
Management theory in Italy
My first visit to Italy has me convinced that there are two schools of thought about Customer Service in Italy.
- Customer Service excellence. Service with smiles, grace and all-round brilliance.
- Tell customers fibs and just don’t care in general. Public transport employees seem to specialise in this variety.
Here’s a 3 minute video I recorded about this phenomenon in Florence for your amusement.
9 October 2023