Large-scale empirical investigation to develop a compendium of best practices to improve the quality of internal risk information transmission within critical industries.
Duration of the project: 2018-2022
The project was led by Pr. Didier Sornette (Chair of Entrepreneurial Risks at the Department of Management, Technology and Economics at ETH Zurich) and Dr. Dmitry Chernov (Chair of Reliability and Risk Engineering at ETH Zurich) aimed to detail improvements of the internal risk transmission practice to be recommended, to systematize the existing best available corporate practices in internal risk transmission that can be found in leading companies in critical industries all around the world (nuclear…) and to develop a handbook clearly explaining the best practices and effective solutions according to ISO 31000:2009 on Risk management - Principles and guidelines.
The background to this project is the fact that, prior to industrial disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, some employees of the affected organizations were aware of dangerous conditions that could potentially escalate to a critical level. However, for a variety of reasons, information about these risky conditions was not delivered to decision-makers in time. The project team conducted 100 interviews with top management, technical managers and safety managers of 65 leading critical infrastructure companies in Western Europe (41% of all respondents), Russia (32%), North America (10%), the Middle East (9%), Africa (5%) and Australia (3%). Interviewees were drawn from the following industries: power generation and transmission (40% of all respondents), oil and gas (36%), chemicals and petrochemicals (9%), mining (6%), metallurgy (6%) and other industries (3%). The team asked practitioners managing critical infrastructure for their views on why employees are reluctant to disclose risks when dealing with managers, why managers are reluctant to receive risk information, who is primarily responsible for creating an internal climate where it is not acceptable to talk about problems in an organization and what needs to do in order to improve the speed and quality of risk information transmission within a large critical infrastructure company. The results of this research are summarized in the final report available below.
The research project resulted in two publications by Springer editor where they can be downloaded or bought (as well as by traditional online book shoppers):
- A handbook on risk management, « Averting Disaster before it Strikes: how to make sure your subordinates warn you while there is still time to act” by Pr. Didier Sornette and Dr. Dmitry Chernov, that focuses on how to transform the way large critical infrastructure companies communicate about safety and technological risks and aims to support senior managers to get the information they need from their subordinates concerning the risks they are facing, in order to prevent accidents before it is too late.
- A book : « Don’t Tell the Boss: how poor communication on risks within organizations causes major catastrophes » by Pr. Didier Sornette and Dr. Dmitry Chernov, that focuses on how poor communication on risks within organizations, whatever its sources, causes major catastrophes… an introduction to this book is available on this website