Risk reporting, Douglas Adams and the number 42.

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What does great risk reporting look like?

The RRR initiative

It’s been a while since we’ve put a newsletter out. Possibly one of the last times you heard from us was during the Rebooting Risk Reporting initiative (RRR).

RRR was an attempt to try an innovative model to addressing systemic and thematic issues and problems across multiple clients at the same time. 

Our view was that risk reporting was consistently pretty ordinary in many places and perhaps by getting a lot of people together for a small fee we could so something quicker, bigger, better and cheaper than tackling this one organisation at a time.

Our rationale was that if you could get the risk conversations right between executive and board then many good things would follow in all things risk.

The coordination required proved to be difficult as a first-time effort. Nonetheless, we did a study and worked with a number of clients and learned a great deal. 

The results of the study – 42

The results closely resembled a scene from one of our favourite Douglas Adams books. The scene goes like this.

A group of advanced beings developed a super computer to answer the question to the ultimate question –What is the meaning of life?  Life, the universe and everything? 

After millennia considering the question, the computer declared the answer to the question to be 42, pointing out that you could only make sense of the answer if you understood what the question actually was.

And so too, the simple answer to our study is ‘it depends on what question you’re trying to answer’.

Years of incremental bolt ons without first-principles thinking

What we found that most risk reporting comes from a place of trying to satisfy various questions at various points in time.

Many of these reporting requests become additive until it becomes unclear what questions are trying to be addressed, and how or whether they are being addressed.

Templates are shared and new content adopted, requested or bolted on.

Our conclusion is that the most important place to start is to define the questions, and then the formats will become apparent.

Taking this forward at your place

Since launching the initiative we’ve been considering questions and formats across a number of organisations and have helped many to get the clarity and simplicity that they need for great risk conversations.

If you’ve got misalignment on risk reporting, poor engagement on risk discussions or would just like a check and refresh, please book a time to discuss.

As we always say, “Risk lessons are portable. Templates less so.” If you’d like something that drives a the right conversations at your place please get in touch.


This article was originally posted as part of The Davies Report in December 2018. Since then a number of the reports we have designed have become widely adopted across organisations in multiple sectors and jurisdictions including corporate, government and not for profit. Contact us to find out how we can help.


Please see below for the original study brochure.

Rebooting Risk Reporting
A multi-group initiative to help drive risk forward across multiple clients simultaneously.