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Risk in the Boardroom – could Snoopology be the answer?

Coach House Consulting SnoopologyI was just too intrigued so I had to find out more about this term ‘snoopology’ which had cropped up a few times recently. And no, it’s nothing to do with Snoop Dogg the American rapper, actor and music producer nor Snoopy from the Charlie Brown comic strip. A quick check with good old Wikipedia describes snooping as ‘devious and cunning – so as not to be seen or to secretly spy on or investigate, especially into the private personal life of others’.

Privacy being such a hot topic, even our televisions apparently have ears, I thought I’d continue my research.  I soon came across Sam Gosling, leading light in the analysis of behaviours and author of ‘Snooping – What Your Stuff Says About You’.  Gosling shares his belief that our true personalities are revealed by simply looking at our stuff.  He claims that you can tell how committed an employee is by analysing their workspace. Even down to how people arrange pictures in an office – do they face an oncoming guest to impress, or facing the owner to provide reassurance – could be significant. Do they have maps showing diverse interests?  Is it true that male rooms have fewer photos of families and friends? With a lot of companies now opting for ‘hot desks’ or desk booking systems, there may well be a limit to what desk space can tell you. However, having worked in these environments extensively, it is surprising what you can learn.

All very interesting and if we really can tell so much about behaviours by looking at peoples’ ‘stuff’ I began to wonder if some of the issues we saw in the banking crisis could have been avoided by sending in some ‘storm snoopers’?! This may not seem as ridiculous as it sounds. From what we’ve been told about certain characters and their boardroom antics it’s clear there were some pretty serious and systemic issues left completely un-tackled.

Board members have a massive role to play in organisational culture. It’s their job to define the risk appetite and they are accountable for setting the culture. It’s their actions, communications and behaviour which set the tone and few will doubt how hard the Regulator will come down on firms who chose to ignore the importance of risk culture. Not surprisingly, there is expected to be a huge increase in activity following the new requirement (2014) that firms carry out an audit of their ‘culture’ and to be able to demonstrate they have a clear understanding of their culture. Firms will need to develop a methodology to satisfy themselves that the mechanisms they use are driving the right culture.  I can honestly say this will feel like a daunting task for some organisations. Coach House has gained particular expertise in this area to make this clear and manageable.

On a final point: I was relieved that Gosling says there are only extreme cases where you can learn much from the contents of a person’s fridge as I peer into mine and spot a nicely chilled Somerset cider ready for the weekend!

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