Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 3pm

Creating Value in Business With Risk Management Training From the Military

Creating value in business with risk management training from the military

“Lift fire, lift fire!” Words like these and many similar phrases are often heard in lethal military situations – both in training and combat. The “fire” that is lifted can range from lasers to blank rounds, all the way to combat situations and live rounds. In every situation where fire is lifted, shifted, or even involved in the exercise, lives are put at risk.

Controlling, mitigating, and managing the risks this creates is a crucial and never-ending task for every military service member. The thousands of hours of training and executing risk management techniques is a unique part of the background many services members can utilize in a business setting. The first question is: Why does this matter? The second question is: How can a veteran leverage this skill?

Risk matters for many reasons in the military, the first being that lives are on the line, particularly in either a training or combat situations. Live rounds, live demolitions, heavy machinery, complex logistics, and many other factors, like night operations, make risk an important factor in planning and executing a mission.

In the private sector, most cases will not involve lives at risk, yet this can create a sense of complacency and thus new types of risk. When the risk involves issues like PR and media relations, cash flow, corporate structure, and customer experience, it adds a different type of complexity due to the changing nature of what these risks look like in real-time, combined with the limited institutional tools that are on the market to measure and monitor the changes. The real-time media cycle and enablement of all people via social media creates a risk that will likely not go away anytime soon and also happens to require idiosyncratic treatment in many situations. Risk assessment, risk measurement, and risk mitigation matter in the private sector and veterans are, in many cases, well positioned to succeed in tackling these unique challenges.

There are several ways a veteran can make an impact on mitigating and managing risk in the private sector. The first way is utilizing any background outside of the military to better inform/translate their military knowledge into other settings, industries, and situations. These skills may have first developed while taking the PSAT in the early years of high school and then later the SAT or ACT. Preparing for these tests, talking to others, and getting enough sleep the night prior to taking the test are methods veterans used to tackle the objective of reducing the risks of a poor test score.

For veterans that did not attend college, the exact same tactics, techniques, and procedures may have been utilized in preparing for either military entrance exams or perhaps the physical training required during the basic training associated with their branch of service.


These skills are utilized daily in military operations in a more formal, structured manner. Standard operating procedures for how to load, clear, and clean a weapon reduce the risk of any service member harming themselves while engaging with a weapon or weapon system. Drills, practice, and hundreds of repetitions reduce the risks of fratricide and other hazards during either the fog of war or the sheer exhaustion of non-stop training for days on end.

While at first, these situations might seem different, the similarities are striking. Through proper reflection and connecting the dots, service members can begin to think about ways to utilize the knowledge and hard-earned experience in a way to create value in the private sector.

One path that has proven useful for many veterans who are trying to bridge this gap of military to civilian skills is business school, or formal academic training around business principles. This path is especially useful for translating subject matter expertise in risk mitigation/risk management into the business world. The benefit of formal education is understanding what matters in business, and what can go wrong or succeed in destroying or creating value. Knowing these principles and basic tools allows the veteran to better prioritize both (A) which risks to analyze and (B) how to analyze them in a useful manner. 

For some veterans risk mitigation may be only a small part of their career after the military. For others it may embody almost all work they engage in. For every veteran, this background and skill-set acquired in understanding and reducing risk is a unique part of their story, and if carefully presented to future business partners, can and will create shared value.


 

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Ben Faw is cofounder and COO of BestReviews, focused on arming consumers with confidence and clarity to make their purchasing decisions. Prior to Harvard Business School Ben attended West Point, and is also a graduate of Ranger, Airborne, and a variety of other military schools.

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