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Which Risk Manager Would You Hire? Game of Thrones Edition

5 min read
Aug 16, 2018

It’s just not summer without Game of Thrones. There’s nothing like sitting in a dark, air-conditioned room and traveling to the land of Westeros for a story of fire and ice. Who doesn’t love a good epic?

While we wait for next year’s final episodes, get your GoT fix here with this hypothetical exercise in risk management hiring:

The Seven Kingdoms is looking for a risk manager responsible for overseeing enterprise risk management across the empire. The candidate should be a perceptive self-starter with an analytical mind. The risk manager will need a methodical approach to risk management policies and procedures, keeping an eye open for all threats and opportunities, including risks related to finances, security, operations, reputation, and other areas. The manager must work well with others and not be afraid to speak up even when a risk is unusual. The ability to identify, assess, manage, and mitigate risk is a must. Experience with dragonglass is a plus.

Who do you hire? The candidates:

Jon Snow

Current title: Lord of Winterfell, King in the North, Ex-Commander of the Night’s Watch

Risk appetite: Not a cautious man. Will do what he believes is right even if it’s dangerous.

Approach to risk:  Jon is not afraid to adopt an unconventional approach to risk management and mitigation. For instance, he let the Wildlings through the Wall and granted them lands to limit the potential for new soldiers for the White Walkers. He’s done a poor job assessing risk in the past, failing to anticipate the reputation risk from letting in the detested Wildlings and getting stabbed to death by the men of the Night’s Watch as a result. Jon’s analytical skills are sometimes overcome by passion, such as when he ignored the high risk of engaging Ramsay Bolton’s forces when outnumbered in favor of attempting to rescue his brother, a decision not in the best interests of the organization. The resulting mass casualties nearly destroyed his army. He doesn’t always follow the tone from the top or adhere strictly to policies and procedures (ignoring the policy of the Night’s Watch by having a love affair with a Wildling). Jon is capable of miraculous, out-of-the box solutions for seemingly unsolvable problems, including returning from the dead. He might be able to save the day, but it’s also possible he’ll create more disasters than he mitigates.

People skills: Likeable and compassionate. A natural leader, he is honorable and assumes the same of others. He is a coalition builder, leading the effort to join forces to fight the White Walkers. He could really unite the team.

Daenerys Targaryen

Current title: Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons

Risk appetite: A burning desire to make big moves.

Approach to risk: Though she has a strong moral code, Dany has zero tolerance for threats and believes in extreme methods of mitigation. This includes commanding her fire-breathing dragons to roast an enemy. Dany is capable of making tough decisions to mitigate risk, using controls like locking up her beloved dragons after dragon Drogo killed a child. Her desire for justice creates mental silos that make her blind to consequence, such as the increased rebellion after she executed one of her councilors for disobeying orders. Her response plan can be a bit one-note, frequently relying on her dragons to serve as enforcers.

People skills: Confident, courageous, and strong. She is adaptable, learning the Dothraki language and adopting their customs after her wedding to Khal Drogo, but she often ignores the advice of others who have insights into real-world risks. People are drawn to her and her dragons. She’s won over diverse groups, including the Dothraki hoards, the freed slaves of Meereen, and Jon Snow. But can she wrangle risk at your institution?

Cersei Lannister

Current title: Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Lady of Casterly Rock, Lady Paramount of the Westerlands, Wardeness of the West, former Queen Mother, Queen Regent & Queen Consort

Risk appetite: Go big or go home.

Approach to risk: Cersei has a narrow-minded focus that can blind her to the big picture. Her arrogance and self- absorption means she tends to focus on short-term goals, interfering with her ability to assess risk at an enterprise-wide level over the long term. Her controls have been known to backfire spectacularly, particularly reinstating the Faith Militant as a control against rival House Martell usurping her power. That miscalculation resulted in her imprisonment and public shaming. As a follow-up Cersei blew up the Sept with daughter-in-law Margaery Martell and the High Sparrow in it, neutralizing both threats. Yet Cersei failed to assess the potential impact on her son, who took his own life after Margaery’s death. She accomplished her ultimate goal of controlling the Iron Throne but at a devastating cost.

People skills: Narcissistic and vindictive, Cersei is also strong and ambitious. Nothing can deter her from reaching her objectives. You can’t kick the feeling that the job of risk manager won’t be enough for her. If you hire her, she’ll be gunning for your job.

Lord Varys

Current title: Master of Whisperers

Risk appetite: Not afraid to spill a little blood, as long as someone else does the spilling.

Approach to risk: With a large network of spies, Varys is well informed when it comes to risk. Varys is a consummate manager, frequently orchestrating events behind the scenes and outsourcing tasks. His spies function as a leading indicator and silo buster, making him the first to know what’s going on. He’s an expert in leveraging his enterprise-wide insight to mitigate risk and exploit opportunities. For instance, he warns Tyrion Lannister that Cersei knows about his mistress and gains his trust by sharing information about secret passageways Tyrion can use to meet her. Varys sees himself as a force for stabilizing the organization, trying to prevent a war between the Lannisters and Starks by encouraging Eddard Stark to plead guilty to treason and join the Night’s Watch. As with all of risk management, sometimes his controls and calculated risks don’t pan out and people lose their heads.

People skills: Though he may come across as cheery and fawning, Varys is cunning and a master manipulator. His obsequious personality makes him a great diplomat, helping win over allies that aid him in assessing risk. His water cooler gossip would be the best around.

Tyrion Lannister

Current title: Hand of the Queen and Lord of Casterly Rock; former Hand of the King and Master of Coin.

Risk appetite: Cautious with a side of subversion.

Approach to risk: Untrained in swordsmanship due to his small stature, Tyrion puts brain before brawn when tackling risk management. He’ll speak the truth to those above him, even when it’s unpopular—a valuable trait in any risk manager. A gifted statesman, Tyrion has broad perspective of different regions and customs, visiting everywhere from the Wall to Meereen. He’s a trusted advisor, with Dany naming him Hand of the Queen, but he can have issues with impulse control, undermining the strategic plan and leading to the occasional murder. Tyrion’s risk averse nature makes him an advocate for measured attacks. He also encourages Dany to spare the lives of two Lannister-loyal nobles—advice which she ignores and has negative consequences. His love of wine has been known to cloud his decision making. Because his viewpoint is Westeros-centric, not all of his insights translate to managing risk in Essos. Dany returned to a political mess when Tyrion stood in for her in Meereen while she was held captive.

People skills: Cunning, witty, and entertaining, Tyrion is the smartest person in the room and is sure to be a hit in meetings and at the holiday party. A strong communicator, he can clearly and logically make a case for his risk assessments and proposed controls. He has a conscious and empathizes with outsiders, making him approachable to employees at all levels.


Related: Creating Reliable Risk Assessments

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