Knowing what you don’t know

There might be issues that your environmental scan hasn't covered. It is difficult to know what you don’t know. So here are some questions to ask to reveal potentially missing insights.

Identifying risk

Headline questions What are the major prevailing and anticipated future issues/trends for the public sector? How might these issues/trends shape and define the risk profile (hazards/opportunities) of this organisation? What is the organisation’s strategic response to these issues/trends?
Sub-questions Are there (mega) trends that underpin these? (Cyclical, increasing, decreasing?) Are there particular features of this organisation that amplify or attenuate the effects of these issues/trends on the organisation? Which risks have management and the board implicitly chosen to accept? Should these be made more explicit? How?
Which of these issues/trends are most relevant to this organisation and why? Does the risk management framework take enough account of these issues/trends? Which risks have management and the board chosen to avoid? Are these clearly articulated?
How and within what time frames do we expect any of these issues/trends to make themselves felt on this organisation? Does the risk management framework make a clear distinction between "controllable" and "uncontrollable" factors? Which risks are management and the board willing to accept and under what conditions and within what specified ranges?
How should we as a committee explicitly inform our decision-making in the context of the above? Are committee’s views and those of management aligned?

Identifying the entity's value

  • Sustained performance raises organisational and public value.
  • Constructive challenge of underlying organisational performance provides the committee its "business" risk edge.
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Headline questions How well do we know the business of this organisation? What are the Crown/Treasury expectations of performance? What are the major strategic (and operational) trade-offs that need to be made in realising "value"?
Sub-questions Are we clear how the organisation's value is defined, created, delivered, and measured across all divisions/units? Are we clear how outputs under the applicable "service agreement" reconcile with long-term (organisational and public) value? How and where has management framed and determined the trade-offs to realise value? How are these expressed in the organisation’s risk appetite?
What does this tell us about how and where that value can be depleted or destroyed? Does the strategy adequately capture both of the above, and is it convincing/compelling? Are the trade-offs between genuinely mutually exclusive factors or are they potentially "false trade-offs" and performance could (and should) deliver equally against each?
What do the responses to the above questions, including supporting evidence, tell us about the organisation’s ability to deliver sustainable performance and public value?

Managing change

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Headline questions Where and what are the potential opportunities, challenges, and threats to the organisation’s current business and business operating model? Are accountabilities and responsibilities clear and explicit? Is the control environment wholly "fit for purpose" to ensure that targets are fully realised?
Sub-Questions What change programs are under way or planned, and are these limited in scope or extensive (that is, "transformational")? Do we observe a "clear and unambiguous line of sight" between the target outputs and outcomes and those individuals charged with their delivery? In our own analysis and evaluation, where do we have residual concerns about the effectiveness of controls, given the risks?
How can we gain comfort that the organisation has the requisite capacity and capability to execute change/transformation within pre-agreed parameters? Are performance measures, incentives, and target delivery aligned at all levels? Do management representations and assurances have enough substance to demonstrably evidence the veracity of the controls in place to assure delivery?
What do the responses to the above questions, including supporting evidence, tell us about the organisation’s ability to change/transform with a high degree of reliability?