What Marie Kondo can teach us about managing risk?

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, you soon will. She has a hit Netflix show called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” where she visits people’s homes and helps them declutter and tidy up by using her KonMari method. Kondo’s philosophy is that by removing what doesn’t give us joy and using a system of simplifying and organizing your home, we can experience bliss.

Viewed another way, Kondo teaches us how to bring order to chaos. That’s precisely what we’re trying to do in our worlds of managing risk, running a compliance program, directing audits, or any number of GRC activities.

Here are five Marie Kondo organizing tips applied to risk management.

Visualize the destination
The KonMari method that Kondo extols calls for visualizing the destination. When she enters the home of a client, Kondo sits on the floor. She then closes her eyes in a meditative, trance-like state and visualizes what both she and client seek—a clean home.

You can do the same with your program or project. Visualize the destination of your major initiative. Let’s say you’re setting up your third-party risk management program. Picture year two or three of your program and bask in the recognition and success. Beginning with the end in mind helps sustain efforts over time, which every journey requires.

Tidy up
After visualizing the destination, the real work begins. Kondo refers to it as tidying up. It’s the process of going through clothes, books, papers, household items, discarding what’s not needed, and organizing what’s left in the most efficient way possible. In her book, Kondo refers to tidying up as transformative. “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective.”

What could you go through, discard and organize better at work? Maybe your vulnerability scanner is overwhelming manual efforts to analyze data and prioritize risks. A technology solution can throw out what’s not needed by deduplicating data and keep what’s needed—critical vulnerability data. The solution then uses automation to streamline how you manage vulnerabilities.

Let it go
Kondo challenges people to get rid of stuff they no longer need. She’ll ask in the nicest way, “Does it give you joy?” If not, thank the treasured item for its service and let it go. The goal is to declutter your environment.

Apply this lesson to your work world. Maybe a third party presents too much risk, and it’s time to let them go. You may have policies that are outdated or ineffective controls. Or you’re behind the technology curve and still using spreadsheets to manage risk. Do any of those give you joy? Clear them out!

Organize for efficiency
You can spot a Kondo’d drawer by the way it’s organized. She has a unique approach for folding clothes with the goal of maximizing the drawer’s potential. Clothes that took two drawers now fold neatly into one drawer.

How can you organize your processes to be more efficient? If it seems overwhelming, follow Kondo’s advice to start with a specific category. Start with an internal review process and map it out, including stakeholders, their interactions and deliverables. Process mapping makes inefficiencies easier to identify, and removing bottlenecks makes any process instantly more efficient.

Spark joy
Kondo defines “Spark Joy” as what makes you happy like the treasured item you can’t give up. For her homeowner clients, joy is also a bigger concept. It’s a decluttered house neatly organized and works with their lifestyle. The overwhelming feeling is joy.

Can you imagine sparking joy at work? It comes from tidying up your program or project, letting go of what doesn’t serve a purpose and organizing all the elements for efficiency. You can then pause, appreciate the accomplishment and experience a joyful moment. Share the joy for a bigger bump because celebrating success motivates the team and boosts their productivity.

Marie Kondo’s organizing tips apply equally well at home or work. She shows how to keep your eye on the prize and teaches her method for tidying up and letting go. The way Kondo organizes for efficiency enables a home or organization to edge closer to operational excellence. As for joy, that’s the key to the blissful state.

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