The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asks its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they’d share with people looking to move into the industry…

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Gossage, IRMCert

Risk Manager for the Executive Committee of the Army Board, British Army.

How did you get your job?

Risk management training for Army Officers starts the minute you walk in the door at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It’s an integral part of the Army’s planning process, although for the early part of an officer’s career it is focussed more on making high impact decisions while under pressure in potentially life threatening situations. As a Royal Engineer Officer (the Army’s construction specialists in simple terms), I have also been exposed to risk management in the delivery of multiple construction projects.

However, once you reach the rank of Major, your education starts to shift towards a focus of managing the Army as a business to deliver operational outputs, and so managing risk and performance become more significant. Formal training comes at the Junior Staff College, but much of it is on-the-job as you are expected to contribute to performance and risk reporting to your higher headquarters.

When I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel I was also lucky enough to be selected to attend the Defence Academy of the UK for the Advanced Command and Staff Course where I also studied for a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies. A significant part of this course looked at risk management in the corporate space. So when I was asked to apply internally for my next post I jumped at the chance to take on the Risk Manager role on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Army Board. The Board is chaired by the Chief of the General Staff and directs and develops the corporate functions of the Army to ensure we can deliver the outputs required of us by the Government.

Prior to starting the job I undertook a three-day introduction to risk, but I found it light on content and wanted something that could provide me with a more in-depth understanding while complimenting my on-the-job training. I attended the Risk Leader’s Conference at the IRM and discussed the International Certificate with some of the organisers and delegates and it seemed like the right route for me to take. It has been excellent as a handrail for me in understanding the utility of risk management and continuously improving how the Army does its risk management.

What’s a typical day like as a risk manager for the Army’s Executive Board?

Much of what I do is based on a quarterly reporting cycle, which dictates the daily activity, but a typical day will involve interfacing with different departments across the whole Army to gain perspective on the Army’s strategic and operating risks, or providing evidence to the Assurance committee and Internal Audit that we have the right processes in place. Right now the Army is on a path to refine and develop its risk management so there is inevitably something new to learn or consider most days.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

As a risk manager for the Executive Board you see the whole picture, risks and opportunities. It’s thrilling to be influencing the giant leaps the Army is making in changing how it operates to ensure that the service we deliver is exceptional for the Government and the taxpayer.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge is ensuring that people see the value in risk management as the process matures. Although every Army officer has a fundamental understanding of risk, they don’t always see the link between risk on military operations and in the corporate space immediately.

In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?

I was really keen to formalise my knowledge, skills and experience. The senior leadership of Army is very supportive of this and since the implementation of Lord Levene’s reforms on Defence in 2010, has committed to ensuring that the right people are equipped with the right skills to succeed. With an annual budget of £9 Billion ensuring we behave better as a business ultimately assists in achieving our objectives and saving the taxpayer money. In addition it shows a commitment from the Army to managing talent and investing in their people.

What would you say to others thinking about joining IRM as a member?

I would absolutely and wholeheartedly encourage them. The IRM has provided me with the knowledge to succeed while formally bringing together 20 years of experience in risk management. In addition, through attending seminars and professional development sessions at the IRM I have been able to gain knowledge and share the best practice of others experience across an incredibly diverse selection of industries. My membership has also encouraged others across the Army Headquarters to apply to join and undertake formal qualifications.

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