Ahead of the RIMS conference in Sydney 4-5 September and Auckland on 7 September, StrategicRISK spoke with keynote speaker, Cricket Australia head of team performance Pat Howard to talk about balancing risk-taking with team performance.

In March 2018, the Australian men’s cricket team made global headlines for all the wrong reasons: one of its players, Cameron Bancroft, was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the cricket ball at a test match in South Africa. The ‘ball tampering’ scandal saw Bancroft, captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner receive unprecedented sanctions from Cricket Australia. Someone who knows more than most about the scandal is Cricket Australia head of team performance Pat Howard. Ahead of the RIMS conference, he spoke to StrategicRISK on what risk managers can learn from Cricket Australia’s mistakes.

SR: The conference theme is ‘no such thing as business as usual’ - what does that mean to you?

PH: In business and cricket, if you’re doing ‘the usual thing’ you’re likely being complacent. Even the best performers need to take risks and keep innovating. That’s especially true in a world driven by analytics and big data.

It’s also important to be accountable. While data helps decision makers assess risk, they need to address issues quickly and effectively, and within the boundaries of process.

All good companies have a purpose and a strategy but they rarely reach their objectives by taking the usual path.

SR: Your presentation at RIMS is titled ‘Balancing risk-taking with team performance’ – what will you cover?

PH: Successful businesses have an appetite for taking risks. But, knowing how to manage your risk to reach your core objectives is crucial.

It’s a balancing act we deal with at Cricket Australia and it’s one all risk managers can relate to.

For example, while every cricket game is important for Australia, some formats and series are prioritised. We know that we don’t have reserves during a match — if a player gets injured, the chances of the team winning drop dramatically.

So, we measure the risk of pushing players through games against resting them, to make sure they’re fit for more important games in the future.

SR: What has Cricket Australia learned from the ball tampering scandal?

PH: Everyone recognises it’s been an important learning opportunity. The players and management say they’ve learned that they need to confront issues, even small ones, when they appear. It’s about setting standards and holding people to them.

The connection with the Australian public has also been important. We play for Australians, not just the Australian team.

We all learnt how much the game of cricket reflects modern Australian values — people expect their sporting heroes to honour and reflect those values. It’s a great lesson for every sport and business.

SR: What are the critical elements of having a culture that fosters innovation and high performance?

PH: Like any business, Cricket Australia needs to take calculated risks to avoid becoming complacent. If you stand still, you lose the competitive edge and get run over.

For example, Australia has won four of the past five ICC World Cups, but we haven’t looked to innovate to stay ahead of the curve. England didn’t make the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup. But, they’ve made changes and are now favourites for the 2019 tournament.

SR: In your experience, how can companies best recover from incidents where they’ve misjudged the fine line between risk-taking and team performance?

PH: Taking risks can help companies achieve their goals. But, they need to assess the risk associated with their actions and be accountable for them.

When problems arise, it’s important to confront the issues straight away — you can’t ignore it. People also need to know there are consequences.

It’s written in the Art of War, an ancient book on warfare: the general only needed to cut one head off to bring everyone else in line. Whilst that’s a bit drastic in today’s business world, making sure you deal with issues and not walk past them makes sure that everyone knows there are consequences to issues.