Some years ago, a number of department heads asked for my help.

Part of the organization was strongly considering engaging with a new agent to sell our gasoline and related products in Central and Southern America. The potential for enhanced revenue was considered high, as the Mexican agent had extensive contacts in the region. In addition, there were tax and tariff advantages (at that time).

But the department heads who approached me were concerned about the potential for harm (which we called risk).

For example, there was a high degree of concern about the integrity of the agent. There were stories that the agent stole funds from his principals. While these were unproven, the legal department (in particular) was worried.

There were also concerns about compliance by the agent with not only US laws, but those in the neighboring countries. Reputation risk was a potential issue.

They sought my help because the people supporting the initiative had the ear of senior management and the department heads did not believe management was open to hearing their concerns.

Each group had considered the potential effects of a decision to sell products through this agent. Each had a bias: one towards the opportunity and the other to the potential for harm.

Both had assessed the magnitude and likelihood of the potential…

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