Lets take a risk

Things can go wrong in many of the most well run organisations. As humans this shows our imperfections and limitations.

In modern times and especially in the West as management sciences developed, “how to manage risks” became one of the main tools for planning and good governance in organisations. This is why some of the best governed organisations have the best “risk management” in place.

One thing is clear taking risk is not an issue, many successful businesses, organisations and people took risks that brought them success they then enjoyed. Its how this risk was managed helped to keep their heads above the water and avoid the real and present circling sharks.

Another important aspect of risk management is that all risks cannot necessarily be managed to a point where they cant materialise. Even when they are best managed, they can still occur. Only difference being that good management of them means, the organisation is better placed to weather the storm when it comes. This may not be the case without managing them.


Trained in Big 4 accountancy firms in risk management, I had the opportunity to audit risk management in local government, housing associations, central government agencies and education sector. After leaving the Big 4, I moved to a FTSE giant where as a senior Internal auditor, I reviewed risk registers of EMEA region countries and led risk workshops of complex large businesses, such as the North Sea business. As I now work in the charity sector, strengthening good governance in organisations, disseminating my professional learning, I am pleased to see many INGOs recognising the need to manage risks. Be it very much behind the government and corporate sector for various reasons, they try to punch above their weight. In dealing with risk management in the charity sector, especially the INGO sector, I have the following observations:

Where do risks come from

I too often see a misunderstanding of “relevant” risks. Organisations too often led by academics and theory or with the desire of simply copying “others” often fall in this trap.

Identifying risk becomes, a tick box exercise and most of the time risks end up outwardly looking, ignoring the internal and external needs of organisations.


Risks become very much focused on weaknesses and threats, ignoring strengths and opportunities. As I mentioned above sometimes organisations need to be bold to succeed. This may require taking risks.

Every organisation like humans can be different from each other. How the organisation was formed, the recruitment, HR practices, type of CEO and trustees, ethos, stakeholders, business relationships, contracts and brands, can make organisations unique. The associated risks should reflect this. The controlling of risks

In risk registers, I see listing of controls against risks and then a sense of content from organisations that the box is ticked and risk is managed. This is not risk management instead this can turn into a false sense of security. The process of matching risks with controls requires a robust assessment of the controls. This should lead to identifying gaps with meaningful action plans.

An effective risk management process leads to more work, more strengthening, more investment, more focus and more hunger to succeed. This cannot be just a tick box. The INGO sector has a long way to go. Being able to manage risks, can mean a difference of life and death, a full belly or an empty belly for the beneficiaries of INGOs.


The funds raised can travel further in meeting objectives that the most vulnerable depend on. In all this, my work with INGOs continues. Nasir Rafiq is a financial governance expert and the founding director of Dua Governance Chartered Accountants, specialising in the charity sector and internal audit.


Succession – When is the best time to let go

Its hard to let go when you have grown an organisation, be it a business or a charity with personal sacrifice, commitment and / or investment

Sometimes this question leads to breakdown of relationships, disagreements and even legal fights or regulatory action. Humans are mere mortals, and this question always hangs over every Leader, Founder and Owner. This question can be answered in many ways successfully and sometimes unfortunately by force.

In my professional capacity, I have worked to answer this question in the business and charity sectors. My starting position has always been to question and understand the motive of the question as the answers lies therein.

Succession should be about success of the business or charity

Succession must always lead to success – this is when it becomes utmost important to define what that “success” actually looks like.

Does success mean becoming a bigger business or profitable one? Is it about becoming a larger charity or better governed one? Is it about changing the way the organisation is run or just about retiring and passing the mantle?

In defining the parameters of success, the timing matters as it focuses the minds and rewards.

When the question of “succession” is considered without working out the question of “success”, it risks leading to the wrong answer. Not all business successes require successions. And if not careful, unnecessary successions can lead to disasters and failures due to losing history, commitment, and profile of the leader internally and externally. Artificial term times don’t always work, especially when copy / pasted from other organisations.

What success looks like may even require other solutions other than succession. For example, advisors / new positions under the leader, more delegation or just good and better business planning or resources.

However, when the succession discussion is underpinned by the need of a clearly identifiable success then difficult discussions become easier to digest and problems turn the mind to “win-win” solutions. Succession planning becomes meaningful and desirable.


Good strong successors don’t grow on trees

In a family business or a family / friend run charity, the perceptions of control can dominate the succession discussion over the need for real organisational success. Not all seats on the board table mean control – the wrong successor can compromise success – without the real success, control means nothing.

However once succession is on the cards, finding the right successor can become an impossible task. The identified success parameters should determine the type of successor required – Leaders don’t grow on trees and may not be just plucked out of thin air. Promoting an amateur and / or choosing an untried hand can be a risky affair – this is why a timely succession planning is always a cornerstone of good governance.

Below are some examples of how succession planning works in good governed organisations:

  1. Delegation nourishes leadership. This can be achieved in a controlled and a phased manner. The delegation matrix should be meaningful and there should be succession planning thought behind it – This should not just be a HR tool to use when things go wrong.

  2. Input leads to outputs. Every great leader started from a junior position and worked their way up. Never underestimate a good effective recruitment strategy at junior grades. These are the stones that can be carved into eye-catching statues of tomorrow. Graduate recruitment of great corporates is designed with this in mind.

  3. Mentoring should not be accidently achieved – it should be planned. This is a fruit that can be produced through an effective HR function and through good performance management protocols. Effective leaders budget their time for mentoring – these are the seeds that can grow into the trees of tomorrow.

  4. Nepotism can be costly. It comes at the cost of achieving real success. It suppresses real leadership and opportunity. Organisations that keep nepotism in check make succession planning work effectively. These are the organisations that are designed to succeed in their organisational objectives. Those that don’t, lose in the long run.


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Author: Nasir Rafiq BA FCA is a widely experienced Finance Professional and Governance Expert. He works with organisations of all sizes and complexities.


Nasir is the Founder Director of Dua Governance Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors. A firm that specialises on governance advisory services to the charity sector.