The Purpose of Risk Analyses and Risk Management in Operational Planning

Risk Analyses in Operational Planning 

Risk analysis is assessing the probability of something going wrong, whilst at the same time also assessing the possible negative consequences if it does. Risk analysis can help reduce negative effects on an organisation is not completely eradicate them. Failure to conduct risk management can result in a lost of time, money, and status of managers. In more serious cases it can even lead to complete failure of a business. 

When analysing risk, we may have to look at one or more factors which can affect the outcome. These might include (but are not limited to): 

  • Human – Illness, death, injury, or other loss of a key individual. 
  • Operational – Disruption to supplies and operations, loss of access to essential assets, or failures in distribution. 
  • Reputational – Loss of customer or employee confidence, or damage to market reputation. 
  • Procedural – Failures of accountability, internal systems, or controls, or from fraud. 
  • Project – Going over budget, taking too long on key tasks, or experiencing issues with product or service quality. 
  • Financial – Business failure, stock market fluctuations, interest rate changes, or non-availability of funding. 
  • Technical – Advances in technology, or from technical failure. 
  • Natural – Weather, natural disasters, or disease. 
  • Political – Changes in tax, public opinion, government policy, or foreign influence. 
  • Structural – Dangerous chemicals, poor lighting, falling boxes, or any situation where staff, products, or technology can be harmed. 



Risk Management in Operational Planning 

Once we have analysed and understand possible risks to our operation plan, we can set about managing risks and if possible completely eradicating risk altogether. One example of this is health and safety Risk Assessments which are discussed in more detail in the next section but risk can manifest in many other areas of an organisation including fiscal, reputational, and operational. 

Managers should continually monitor and suspected risks on a regular basis to insure that the risk is being controlled as much as reasonably practicable. Controls can be implemented or changes made to keep any risk to a minimum. If possible, training or retraining can be provided. In my own organisation, we regularly train and retrain employers to ensure that any risk to them of exposure to asbestos fibres is minimised.  

The Usefulness of Different Decision Making Techniques for Operational Planning Decisions

If we are certain of an outcome we may make an instant decision, based on our prior experience, expertise and the predictable outcome, without using any decision-making technique.  

However, when a manager lacks perfect information or whenever an information asymmetry exists, risk or uncertainty arises. Under a state of risk, the decision maker has incomplete information about available alternatives but has a good idea of the probability of outcomes for each alternative.5 It is at this point that a manage would need to decide on the likelihood of an outcome based in his or her experience. This can be a perilous road if the manager lacks experience or fails to recognise a factor which could affect the decision and is a position that the majority of managers are uncomfortable with. Making decisions under risk should be avoided wherever possible and a proven decision making technique employed if possible. 

We all make decisions on a daily basis. What cereal should I have for breakfast? Should I walk to work or take the car? Do I want pasta for dinner or a baked potato? So what do we do when decisions are much more serious and need to be based on facts and analysis? Or perhaps when we can’t see the wood for the trees? 

Decision Trees are a popular method for making decisions and are used for weighing up to advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of a decision based in a number of inputs or factors. Carried our correctly, decision trees cover all options available and result in a range of outcomes. Using this information, managers can better understand the most likely outcome of a decision by evaluating the value of each possible outcome. 

Cost benefit analysis can also be employed to assist in making decisions. For example, one of my employees may come up with a great new idea to bring in extra business. However, to do this, he will require a new van at a cost of £20,000. Using cost benefit, we can decide whether the investment of £20,000 is likely to result in a beneficial profit over a reasonable amount of time. 

Cost benefit analysis is a quick and simple technique that you can use for non-critical financial decisions. Where decisions are mission-critical, or large sums of money are involved, other approaches – such as use of Net Present Values and Internal Rates of Return are often more appropriate. 

These techniques aside, my experience in business has shown me that whatever decision making technique we may decide to use, we can rarely be 100 per cent certain that we are making the right decision. Occasionally variables occur we simply could have expected or predicted. Nevertheless, by utilising the above techniques, we can certainly increase our chances of making the right decision at the time.


How to Carry Out a Cost-Benefit Analysis for a Project

Step One: Brainstorm Costs and Benefits

Initially, you need to look at a project and outline all of the associated costs related to a project. On a basic level these might include (but will not be limited to):

  • labour
  • materials
  • specialist services
  • fuels
  • waste disposal
  • welfare requirements
  • hired-in equipment

Looking over the lifetime of the project, consider any unexpected costs which may possibly be incurred. These might include additional costs such as employing agency workers.

Managers should also look at ongoing costs, which might include maintenance of equipment or vehicles or wear and tear.

Step Two: Assign a Monetary Value to the Costs

Next, assign a monetary value to the costs. It’s important to think about as many related costs at this point. For example, what will any training cost? Will there be a decrease in productivity while people are learning a new system or technology, and how much will this cost?[1]


Step Three: Assign a Monetary Value to the Benefits

In the case of my project, initially there were two options for dealing with contaminated materials – we could remove OR encapsulate them. For both processes, the costs of getting to the point of being able to physically deal with the asbestos safely were exactly the same. However, the next step could change the cost of the project dramatically.

Removal of some hazardous materials can be a slow process. This means that it has to be removal in small sections. The waste produced results in a considerable amount which has to be seal in airtight bags and then transported to a specialist waste disposal point and buried. However, through the process of encapsulation, the asbestos can remain in place and remains perfectly safe once covered using a specialist technique and then heavily marked as hazardous. This option proved to be much more cost effective for us and the client and made it the preferred option.


Step Four: Compare Costs and Benefits

In the case of my project, we had a fixed price which we had to meet in order to win the contract. Looking at the associated costs and then the benefit (profit) we were able to see whether the project was once worth bidding for. In this case, it was.

In addition to financial benefits, we also had an opportunity to increase awareness of our brand through association with a large local motorcycle dealership as well as using information from the projects in other branding and social media outlets.


The Need for Operational Planning for Different Types of Operations

Operational planning is the process of planning strategic goals and objectives to tactical goals and objectives. It describes milestones, conditions for success and explains how, or what portion of, a strategic plan will be put into operation during a given operational period, in the case of commercial application, a fiscal year or another given budgetary term.[1]

There is a difference between operational planning and strategic planning, which are compared below:

Basis for Comparison Strategic Planning Operational Planning
Meaning The planning for achieving the vision of the organization is Strategic Planning. Operational Planning is a process of deciding in advance of what is to be done to achieve the tactical objectives of business?
Time Horizon Long term planning Short term planning
Approach Extroverted Introverted
Modifications Generally, the plan lasts longer The plan changes every year
Performed by Top level management Middle level management
Scope Wide Narrow
Emphasis Planning of vision, mission and objectives Planning the routine activities of the company


Operational Planning is vital for the day-to-day running of any business, providing employees with a clear understanding of what is required of them within their individual responsibilities.

The operational plan assist employees in understanding what needs to be done, by whom, how it will be done and where. An operational plan also forms the basis for financial budget requests as well as deciding on timescales for events over the short, medium and long term.

Operational plans will usually contain several important points. My own organisations operational plan is very lengthy due to the nature of business, but contains clear objectives and quality standards. In addition, an operation plan should also contain:

  • activities to be delivered
  • desired outcome
  • staffing and resource requirements
  • implementation timetables
  • a process for monitoring progress



I should be noted that operation planning should constantly consider the strategic planning of an organisation and not contradict it in any way.



Different Methods of Developing a Learning and Innovation Culture in an Organisation

Through developing a learning and innovation culture a business will aim to encourage employees and managers to think ‘outside of the box’ or look for unorthodox methods of thinking. In turn, this can work towards producing new ways of working, new products and new approaches to a specific industry.


Turn to Employees for New Ideas

As much as managers may rely on customer feedback to new ideas or to fix areas where problems may occur, we should actively invite employees to put forward their own ideas. This might be with a simply suggestions box where employees can leave their ideas anonymously, or by holding meetings with team leaders and their juniors. If employees can see their ideas being actively investigates (and where practicable put to work) they will become more encouraged to continue to think of new ideas. Of course, there will be times when ideas are either unachievable (due to time constraints, financial implications or because they do not fit with the company’s values), but nevertheless they are generally a very cost effective way of producing new ideas. Our employees are the people who are those who are actually carrying out the tasks required of them and are therefore in an excellent position to come up with suggestions which management or stakeholders may never have thought of.


Break Down the Barriers

Where possible, we should look at ways of allowing employees to test new ideas with as few obstacles as possible. Most managers are at some point in their careers likely to have worked at a company who spend a considerable amount of time holding meetings to discuss ideas, but little time actually putting them into testing (if they ever do)! If an idea is new, but can be safely tested without risk to the businesses in a financial or regulatory sense, staff should be encouraged to test these ideas. Equally, it is important that information is gathered to prove whether the idea has justification to be implement or produced going forward.


Accept that Failure Doesn’t Always Mean Failure

There is always a risk with new innovative ideas that they will fail. Although I cannot find any statistics to support my view, I think it is fair to say that there are many new projects will failed before they became a success. However, through failure, we learn and can teach our peers and juniors not to make the same mistakes that we did. Through this type of education, we can gather information to help improve the chance of the next project being a success.

Steve Jobs is probably one of the world’s most famous ‘losers’ but failed to give up. He and his team failed numerous times with their new ideas but always used the information from their failures to improve the next product. Eventually, he would become arguable the most famous innovators of the 21st Century; not because he got things right every time but because he never failed to give up.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs


Walk in Customer’s Shoes

In the day-to-day work environment, it’s easy to forget about the main goal – servicing our customers – but at times this is exactly what occurs. This is why it’s vital to constantly reassess whether the service we are offering is what our customers expect.


Encourage Creative Thinking

I’m definitely not a fan of the phrase ‘blue sky thinking’, but to truly encourage employees to come up with new, radical ideas, open mindedness should be encouraged. In my opinion, it is this type of imaginative thinking which has helped to develop some of the most successful new business practices, concepts and products.

For example: 20 years ago, the idea that someone would be walking around with a small device in their pocket which holds 10,000 songs would have seemed impossible. Yet someone had the concept to imagine (and then design) the iPod which changed the way that billions of people purchase and then listen to music. Portable music devices were nothing new but it was only the advances in technology mixed with the creative ideas of employees of intuitive companies such as Sony and Apple which led to the development of the cassette tape, then the Compact Disc, then the Mini Disc and then portable MP3 format.


Recognise and reward creativity

A vital part of developing a learning and innovation culture in an organisation is to recognise and reward creativity, which in turn will encourage an employee and their peers/teams to also think or their own innovative ideas. In addition, this will increase staff motivation and result in a sustainable competitive advantage.

Understand How to Plan for Personal and Professional Development

Professional Networks

Throughout my career I have needed to build various professional networks, and these networks have been vital in ensuring the growth of any company that I have worked for. Such networks bind together the people that we deal regularly, from suppliers right through to the customer and help us achieve our goals.

Professional networks can help managers and their organisations realise new opportunities with an existing part of a network, or perhaps forge new relationships through recommendations and professional references. As these opportunities develop, so can the roles of employees as new contracts are won or sales increase.

Networking can assist organisations and their employees in discovering groups and opportunities within their own sector, for example new suppliers, customers and distributors. At the same time, networking gives individuals and organisations to become discovered by others who may not previously been aware of their existence.

For these reasons, professional networks are extremely valuable as a tool in personal development and should not be overlooked.


Professional Bodies

Professional bodies offer a number of opportunities to organisations. According to construction analyst Brian Green, professional bodies get status, improve chances of promotion and tie into a network of fellow professionals, as well as sharing regular information to ensure that the understanding of key issues in a profession are kept fresh.[1]

In my own organisation we are expected to be members of a number of professional bodies. In fact, many principal contractors will not even consider us to tender for new contracts unless we are members of certain professional bodies which may provide confirmation that we confirm to a minimum standard in health and safety, or perhaps a standard in customer service. Such organisation also provide elements of professionalism to customers and business partners.


How to Develop an Effective Personal Professional Development Plan

When planning a personal professional development plan, both employees and employers need to look at a number of points which they can do so by asking a set of questions.

  • How is the current role progressing?
  • Are there any ongoing issues?
  • Is the employee being used to their full potential?
  • What additional training is required?
  • Does the employee have aspirations to move into a more senior role?
  • What are the thoughts of the employees’ mentor (if applicable)?
  • What other areas need improving?


These areas are best split into 3 stages[2]:

Stage 1 – Personal Analysis

The first stage is designed to analyse strengths and weaknesses.  We can draw heavily on previous career experience and the outcomes of courses previously attended. These should be supplemented by the perceived opportunities that will have been derived from experience and any ‘threats’ to continued success.

Stage 2 – Setting Goals

This involves setting new and clearly definable goals which are measurable either through support of a mentor, manager, or perhaps using individual personal aims. These goals should include the company’s adjectives.

Stage 3 – Personal Objectives

This stage involves setting out personal objectives.

Once the areas for development and improvement have been identified, it is possible to develop a personal development plan to put into action.


The Different Learning Styles and How they Contribute to Personal Development Planning

Some years ago, a new Chairman was appointed at a company I worked for. He knew very little about the employees of the company. One of the first things he did was to employ a company to test each employee so that he could grasp who each personal learnt new information. I now know that this was a learning styles test, very similar to the ‘Index of Learning Styles’ (ILS) developed by Barbara Soloman and Dr Richard Felder.

The ILS separates an individual’s learning style into 4 dimensions so that they can better understand how they learn and how to get the most from learning new information.

Once you know where your preferences lie on each of these dimensions, you can begin to stretch beyond those preferences and develop a more balanced approach to learning. This can help improve our learning effectiveness and open ouselves up to many different ways of perceiving the world.[3]

In my case, I can see that I am generally balanced in the way that I prefer to learn new information, with the exception of the 4th result which shows that I prefer to see the bigger picture initially and then fill in the details later. This means I may struggle to learn when information is presented in a linear fashion. I agree! However, this could have a negative affect for me when planning professional development as I may concentrate too much on the end goal and not on the details of how I intend to achieve it.

The diagram on the following page explains the different learning styles.

It is important to consider how someone learns when developing a personal development plan. This may be by presenting information in a way that suits an individual’s learning style, or providing additional training to help an employee improve their learning capability in areas where they may not be confident.


How Development Activities are Prioritised for Personal and Professional Development

Prioritising personal and professional development depends on a number of factors.

Initially, it is necessary to decide which areas are urgent, as to those which are important. A person taking on a completely new role may need to be trained in a specific area before they can be left to carry out the role unsupervised. It may also mean that staff shortages, perhaps for illness or a general lack of available labour, mean that the PDP needs to be revised to suit the organisations requirements.

A very basic example of this in my own business sector would be that any member of staff required to go onto an active construction site would need to be trained in the relevant procedures of CSCS of CSCS to prove they have the training and qualifications required to carry out their job. This would be before they were even allowed to commence training as an Asbestos Operative, so CSCS training would be an urgent requirement over important.

In perhaps a more complex example, it may be decided that an Operative has good potential to move onto a Supervisor role, which occurred recently in my company. It was therefore important to us to focus on the long term objectives for this employee which involved him receiving more complex training over the period of a year whilst working closely with the management team as a group of experienced mentors.

The day-to-day pressures of the working environment as well as meeting deadline means that personal professional development may have to be reorganised to adjust for the priorities of an organisation. Factors outside of work may also have an effect on the prioritisation of a PDP.

Overall, activities need to be prioritised in terms of reasonable achievability within the organisations objectives.


The Effectiveness of Different Development Activities In Improving Personal Performance

The Kirkpatrick Model is the worldwide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training. Using this model, businesses can improve on the personal performance of employees.

The Kirkpatrick Model uses 4 levels to measure how a personal respond to training through evaluating if the training has had a positive impact on the employee and organisation.

“ The Kirkpatrick Model considers the value of any type of training, formal or informal, across four levels. Level 1 Reaction evaluates how participants respond to the training. Level 2 Learning measures if they actually learned the material. Level 3 Behaviour considers if they are using what they learned on the job, and Level 4 Results evaluates if the training positively impacted the organisation.”[4]

Johari window

Whilst researching the Kirkpatrick Model, I discovered another model called the Johari window. Although this isn’t directly a model to explain different learning styles, it does assist individuals in better understanding their relationship with themselves and others. By understanding this model, individuals can improve their approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery. It is also useful in group learning activities.

“The philosopher Charles Handy calls this concept the Johari House with four rooms. Room 1 is the part of ourselves that we see and others see. Room 2 is the aspects that others see but we are not aware of. Room 4 is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious part of us is seen by neither ourselves nor others. Room 3 is our private space, which we know but keep from others.

Open or Arena: Adjectives that are selected by both the participant and his or her peers are placed into the Open or Arena quadrant. This quadrant represents traits of the subjects that both they themselves and their peers are aware of.

Hidden or Façade: Adjectives selected only by subjects, but not by any of their peers, are placed into the Hidden or Façade quadrant, representing information about them their peers are unaware of. It is then up to the subject to disclose this information or not.

Blind : Adjectives that are not selected by subjects but only by their peers are placed into the Blind Spot quadrant. These represent information that the subject is not aware of, but others are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual about these “blind spots“.”

Unknown: Adjectives that were not selected by either subjects or their peers remain in the Unknown quadrant, representing the participant’s behaviour’s or motives that were not recognized by anyone participating. This may be because they do not apply or because there is collective ignorance of the existence of these traits.”

Quote taken from Wikipedia page[5]

Using learning techniques can help individuals, their managers and mentors to expand their learning ability by using methods which they may not previously have known existed, or which they did not think applied to them. Not just in a practical ability, but also in a psychological one.


Once these techniques are understood and implemented they should lead to a more “rounded” learner.






The Concepts of Assigned Leadership and Emergent Leadership

Assigned Leadership

An assigned leader is a person who uses their position within an organisation (such as a job title or position) to gain their authority. Thus, an organisation may expect that other employees provide respect to this person based on their position, but not necessarily on their leadership skills. Therefore, and assigned leader may have to provide examples during their working practices to demonstrate that they have the correct skillsets and ability to motivate. An assigned leader may also find themselves having to go the ‘extra mile’ to defend their position.


Emergent Leadership

Emergent leaders could be classed as more natural to a role. Instead of justifying their worth through a job tile or position they are more likely to willing to help as a member of a team without being asked. For example, they be more likely to take on tasks voluntarily of offer to help over and above their expected role.

Many years ago, I recall a Managing Director saying to me: “Never ask anyone below you to do a job you wouldn’t be prepared do to yourself”. It’s a mantra which has remained with me ever since and which I feel defines the way in which I behave as a manager.


The Different Levels of Leadership in Organisations

It is generally accepted that there are 5 levels of leadership. These are (in ascending order):

Position – People who follow because they have to
Permission – People follow because they want to
Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organisation
People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them
Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent

These explanations speak for themselves, but provide and important hierarchy for those who wish to progress as leaders. For example, do we want to be a leader who is looked up to because they have demonstrated good leadership skills and ethical work practices? Or do we want to simply attempt to command respect from people who have no choice because we hide behind a job title? Put simply, do we want to be a trusted innovator, or remain as boss of subordinates?

It is important for people to progress thought these levels if they truly want to be leaders of teams who are respected. Pinnacle leaders are the rarest but we should all attempt to reach this level if we truly want to become natural in our roles.

Leadership at this high level lifts the entire organisation and creates an environment that benefits everyone in it, contributing to their success. Level 5 leaders often possess an influence that transcends the organization and the industry the leader works in.

How Influencing Skills and Techniques Can be Used to Enhance the Relationship with Stakeholders

Just as with managing employees, managers can adopt a number of skills and techniques to enhance relationships with stakeholders. By correctly managing relationships managers can gain allies and support. Get it wrong, and a project is more likely to fail.

Once key stakeholders are identified, it is vital than managers listen and understand the requirements of them to fully understand their requirements and needs. This can be aided by asking reflective questions and sharing vision (the bigger picture) so that both parties can fully understand what the project is aiming to achieve (and how it will get there). This can aid trust building within the relationship. Managers can ask questions to draw out information,

Being clear and upfront from the outset is vital as surprises may result in conflict or an element of mistrust. It is also vital to provide regular agreed updates on the project to ensure that stakeholders feel part of the process and are not left making assumptions.

Focus is an important element in determining outcomes and objectives of the engagement process. Without focus, it can be difficult for stakeholders to fully understand the bigger picture which may result in confusion or assumptions.

There will be times when certain stakeholders disagree with managers, and influencing skills become vital. Having a personal approach is a definite advantage and can make a manager more approachable and more likeable; building rapport.


Understand How to Implement and Monitor a Personal Professional Development Plan

How to Implement a Personal Development Plan (PDP)

According to, there are 3 main areas to implementing a personal development plan. These are:

  • putting aside some protected time to reflect and take stock
  • being systematic, writing a plan and regularly reviewing it
  • finding at least one person who can act as a ‘critical friend’

However, there is much more to implementing a successful personal development plan that just these three areas.

When planning personal development, managers need to look at an employer’s previous experience, current requirements, and what might be required for them to progress and schedule training, mentoring activities or own learning programs in accordance with the organisations objectives.

As well as drawing up a detailed plan, it’s important to set dates to achieve goals, and if not achieved, modify the goals accordingly to ensure that the Personal Development Plan (PDP) remains on course.

Managers may need the assistance of a mentor or manager to agree that our plan is achievable and on course and provide additional support, if required. It may also be necessary to share the PDP with these members of staff to ensure that they understand the requirements for the individual employees PDP.

It may also be very useful to keep a journal and/or evidence of achieved standards, as these may be required as evidence for future training or promotional opportunities.



The Value of Constructive Feedback in Implementing and Monitoring the Development Plan

Constructive feedback is vital in implementing and monitoring a personal development plan.

When an employee achieves or exceeds a goal within their PDP it is right to praise and encourage them to continue to strive to meet their targets.

However, there may be times when the goals are not achieved or mistakes are made. It is at this stage that it is vital to provide constructive feedback, even if it is in the negative vein. Without constructive feedback, it may be difficult for the employee to understand where they are going wrong (why they are failing to achieve their objectives), which in turn may leave them unable to correct mistakes or get back on track.

Additionally, poor quality feedback may leave an employee feeling negative about their personal development or even feeling that they need to give up on this plan and change their goals entirely. It is important that employees and their managers are able to learn from any mistakes to avoid them reoccurring. This can also help trainers and managers to prevent the same errors occurring with the next employee.

Constructive feedback can help build respect between employees and their mentors/managers. Management “buy-in” is equally important to the performance management process. If management does not understand the importance and value of the process, it can lead to consistently late or incomplete appraisals, mistrust, avoidance of performance discussions, and a lack of honest performance-related discussions.

Often managers may feel unprepared to deliver quality feedback and oversee effective performance discussions.[1]



How to Monitor Personal Development and Progression Against Objectives

To monitor personal development and progression against objectives, managers need to agree how and when development will be monitored, as well as how and when the PDP is reviewed.

When staff are progressing towards an aspect of their professional development, they are regularly assessed and reviewed at agreed stages to ensure that they are progressing in the required direction (both in a professional and learning capabilities) and meeting the targets which have been set for them. It is vital in many professions to ensure that our activities are conducted within a strict set of regulations and that employees achieve a certain level of training/experience to allow them to carry out their roles.

One area in which some companies fail in is reviewing completed projects to look for improvements. It’s far easier (and less time consuming) to look at the next project, rather than spending some time looking back at what has recently been completed, but this approach can be detrimental to a business. Not only does reviewing help pinpoint areas may require improvement, but it often highlights if employees are meeting their goals. This allows managers to them revise the Personal Development Plan for individual’s as required.

It is important to ensure that reviews are conducted and feedback provided as set times. The meetings may be held on an individual or group basis but should be regular.

As part of PDP monitoring, HR records may be kept by a specifical HE department or the Managing Director.