The Snowball Effect


transforming the role of the

modern risk manager



By Val Jonas

Oxford, United Kingdom

Earlier this year, Risk Decisions  launched The Snowball Effect whitepaper, an examination into the fragmented middle of today’s organisations, from a risk perspective. Working with thought leaders and global risk experts, we explored how to engage and connect with risk in an increasingly complex, uncertain environment, coming out of Covid-19.

Positive risk thinking has gathered pace – risk is no longer a four-letter word, but there’s still a way to go.  As risk leaders, we see first-hand how decisions, taken in a vacuum – ignoring key information and disconnected from final outcomes – can wreak havoc.  Whereas collective, speedy decision making, with risk and end outcomes in mind, can develop into large and impactful results for organisations.  

This is The Snowball Effect.  We found that, too often, managers sitting at the heart of organisations find themselves making decisions in isolation, disconnected from other decision-makers and with a limited vision of the bigger picture.   At the same time, we know the neglected middle can hold the key to greater opportunities, a more solutions-driven way of thinking and more significant success for the long-term.

The Snowball Effect’s central premise is that the opportunity starts from individual ideas, gathering knowledge, connecting people and collaborating to solve problems and deliver innovative solutions. It’s seeing risk in terms of opportunity, agility and shaping the future, rather than purely risk registers and processes. Why does this shift in risk need to come from a well-supported middle and, what does this Snowball Effect approach means for the future of risk?

In this article, we look at the evolving role of the modern risk manager, and the cultural shift needed to embed The Snowball Effect into your organisation.

Why today’s CRO is on speed dial

Risk is having a moment. Covid- 19 showed how connected risk demands fast, joined-up decision making. That we need whole paradigm shifts if organisations are going to thrive in a landscape where uncertainty is the new normal.

Our first Risk Intelligence (RQ1) white paper identified the risk intelligent leader, and in fact, it’s these same leaders – innovative, collaborative and visionary – who have their Chief Risk Officer (CRO) on speed dial. So, what are the factors – cultures and qualities – shaping today’s exceptional manager?

Decision–making and accountability – First, let’s contextualise. Middle managers find themselves in a challenging position, reconciling business expectations with frontline reality. By definition you need to be able to think about multi-dimensional problems. Today’s risk manager has to be 100% clear on decision-making accountabilities and responsibilities – this isn’t moving decision-making to the next level, who then dodge the decision and escalate to the next level.

For The Snowball Effect to work, senior and middle managers must be joined up, thinking in terms of leadership and governance as they support – and drive – key decision-making.

And, because the expanding influence of risk requires a new culture of growth, senior leaders must create a new space for middle managers to grow into, recognising and rewarding the value of risk across the business.


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How to cite this article: Jonas, V. (2021). The Snowball Effect: transforming the role of the modern risk manager; Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VIII, August.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/pmwj108-Aug2021-Jonas-the-snowball-effect-advisory.pdf

About the Author

Val Jonas

Risk Decisions
Oxford, United Kingdom


Val Jonas is a highly skilled risk management expert, with extensive experience of training, facilitating and implementing project, programme, product and business risk management systems for government and industry in the UK, EMEA, North America and APAC regions.

With more than 30 years’ experience working with large organisations, Val has a wealth of practical experience and vision for how they can improve business performance through risk management framework and good practice. Val played a major part in the design and development of the Risk Decisions’ Predict! Enterprise Risk Management software. She pioneered Risk Management Masterclass sessions for senior managers and Connecting Risk workshops for middle managers.

In order to spread good/best practice risk management, Val authors white papers, speaks at international conferences, sits on international working groups and is an advocate of collaborative working. She is the author of the Risk Intelligence (RQ) series of white papers. Learn more at https://www.riskdecisions.com/