Simple doesn’t mean easy

I realized a while back that it can be too easy to mistake ‘simple’ with ‘easy’ and I’ve been concerned that promoting a simple approach to risk management might lead people to think that this makes everything easy. Unfortunately, even though a KISS approach makes risk management easier, it doesn’t do away with the need for hard work altogether. Worst of all, it can be easy to mistake shortcuts for simplification.

I made the same mistake myself recently with my running.

I’m hoping to tackle a longer race this fall (although to be honest this seems less and less likely with COVID) and have been looking for inspiration for my training, which I realized really means that I’ve been looking for shortcuts. 

Like everything, running goes through phases and fads, so there are all kinds of options that promise alternatives to hours and hours of training. But I’ve been running long enough to have seen plenty of fads come and go and, in the end, the same basic principles come up:

  • If I want to run faster, I need more speedwork.
  • If I want to run farther, I need to run longer.
  • If I want to be strong, I need to run up and down some hills.

That’s all very simple. It’s just not necessarily easy. *sigh*  Goodbye shortcuts….

But I realize you didn’t come here for a primer on distance running, so what has this to do with risk management?

Shortcuts aren’t the answer

Well, you might find yourself looking for shortcuts as a risk manager too. And even if you aren’t, your managers will be.

“That seems like a lot of effort. Let’s find an easier way to do this.”
“I just read something in the HBR, and there’s a new technique we can try that will give us the same results in half the time.”
“You know, the other CEOs I speak to aren’t worrying about this right now.”

All of this is code for ‘find a shortcut.’

But the shortcut might not be there or the new fab you follow for a while doesn’t endure and you have to go back to the same basic principles. 

But that doesn’t mean that this is the easy approach. Instead, simple can be hard.

And when you encounter difficulty, that’s when you’re going to look for a shortcut.

Unfortunately, there might not be one. Instead, you just need to put in the hard miles, so to speak.

(It’s worth stressing that there’s a difference between being efficient or innovative and looking for shortcuts. I’m a huge fan of efficiency, and there are often improvements that we can make to processes but that’s not the same a cutting corners.)

Hard problems require hard work

The fact is that hard problems don’t lend themselves to easy solutions. And even if the answer is apparent from an early stage, making the decision easy, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of hard work ahead.

So the earlier you’re able to accept that there’s no easy solution, the better. Looking for shortcuts is often just a waste of time. Time in which the problem becomes bigger.

I’ve been in the room while we circled the right (but challenging) answer for hours or days, looking for an easier solution. 

But in the end, we just had to accept that there wasn’t an easy way out: we had to do the obvious, hard thing.

So KISS risk management doesn’t mean easy risk management, I’m afraid. There’s still hard work ahead, but the good news is that this hard work will generate the results you want.

You just have to put in the miles.

What do you think? Leave a Reply