Context and Risk - a Diagram

How much process do we really need?

Is there a policy for that? (And must we use it?)

What would be proportionate?

Can we use much discretion?

What does the law actually say?

What is the bottom line absolute risk involved?

What if we get it wrong?

Is there a precedent for this? Would we be setting one, if not? (And does it matter?)

The questions above, and so many more, invariably accompany complex HR/People management decision making. If you’re in HR or line manage people, you’ve probably had lots of conversations covering the above – you may have also had to try to describe your approach to risk in an interview…

I’ve had the following on my wall sketched on some magic whiteboard for a while.
I was planning to start to write in some generic examples…
Then I started to think about a wheel (from the wheel of life) with an axis –LOW in the middle radiating out to HIGH on the circumference. What contextual issues would I include? I had a go (well several actually – many discarded) on drawing what this could look like. 

My latest ‘working out loud’ attempt is below:

This could be a ‘wheel’, or a spider diagram, or some sort of massive Venn diagram where high scores get big circles, and overlap each other, meaning?
I’m also musing on the different organisations I have worked in, and the different shape this diagram might have taken, depending on many factors like the nature of the business and sector, Unionisation, HR and management capacity, appetite for risk, innovation, leadership style etc.

I don’t think any particular shape is better than another, but I do think it is important to understand deeply what shape this sort of decision making takes in your organisation. And how this fits with your own approach and values.

I would love to hear what you think.


I've taken on board that the influence of organisational, professional (HR) and personal values is not that explicit in the above. The colour of the circles was an attempt to identify softer (more value driven) factors from hard factors. I realise there is overlap and subjectivity in all of this.

Below is an example where some of the factors to consider might have bigger circles (they are more of an issue or more pertinent to the organisation or to the question being considered) or a they might score higher on a 1 to 10 axis:

Here, I think the organisation has the capacity to consider its options to an extent. It's not constrained by HR policy (I've taken being legal and within employment law as a given) and it could come up with a creative, more personalised approach. The judgement that the approach is not in line with organisational culture can be taken both ways - it might well be positive, as the impact of the outcome (if it doesn't need to be kept confidential) might help to drive desired organisational change.

I've drawn one or two others, but am in danger of rambling.....


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