Continuing on my feudal Japan theme on GRC, after my last blog on Who Will be the GRC Platform Shogun? and my excitement for the new miniseries on Disney+/Hulu/FX, here we explore the Samurai art of the sword in the Book of Five Rings and apply it to the world of GRC . . .

In the dynamic, disrupted, and distributed business world, the integrated and interdependent disciplines of Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC) are akin to an art form – a delicate balance of strategy, foresight, insight, and ethical practice. This complex interplay can be beautifully likened to the wisdom found in Miyamoto Musashi’s revered treatise, “The Book of Five Rings.” Just as Musashi’s text offers guidance in the martial art of the sword, my conceptual framework of “The Book of Five GRC Rings” is a philosophical and practical guide to mastering the essential elements of GRC in today’s corporate world.

At the core of this analogy is the profound definition provided by OCEG, where I serve as an OCEG GRC Fellow. This definition describes GRC as “the capability to reliably achieve objectives (Governance), address uncertainty (Risk Management), and act with integrity (Compliance).” This definition underscores the interconnected nature of these three facets and emphasizes the importance of harmonizing them to create a resilient, agile, and ethical organization of integrity driving what OCEG calls Principled Performance.

In “The Book of Five Rings,” Musashi identifies the elements of ground, water, fire, wind, and the Void as the basis of his strategy. When translated into the context of GRC, these elements become powerful metaphors that encapsulate the essence of each discipline. They serve as a foundation for understanding the nuances and intricacies of navigating modern business’s complex and often turbulent world.

This analogy creating The Book of Five GRC Rings sets the stage for a deeper exploration into how these ancient principles can be applied to modern-day challenges in the corporate sphere. It invites leaders and practitioners alike to embark on a journey of discovery, learning how to meld the timeless wisdom of Musashi’s rings with the practical demands of effective governance, risk management, and uncompromising organization integrity. This journey is about embracing a holistic approach that ensures an organization can achieve objectives and navigate and leverage uncertainty for long-term success with integrity.

Here are the Five GRC Rings . . .

  • The First Ring: The Ground – Governance. The ground represents the stable foundation upon which all else is built. In GRC, this is Governance – an organization’s strategy framework and objectives. Like a samurai’s stance, governance must be solid, providing the structure and direction for all organizational activities. It entails defining the mission, setting clear objectives, and establishing the organization’s guidelines. The agility of governance lies in its ability to adapt and evolve with the changing business landscape, ensuring that objectives are consistently met efficiently and effectively.
  • The Second Ring: Water – Risk Management. Flowing like water, Risk Management is adaptive, constantly changing to meet the contours of the business terrain. It involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating uncertainty/risks that may hinder the organization’s ability to meet its objectives. Like a warrior who anticipates and counters the moves of an adversary, effective risk management requires an organization to be both reactive and proactive, adapting its strategies to ever-changing risks and uncertainties. An organization’s resilience is tested through its risk management practices, ensuring it can withstand and recover from adversities.
  • The Third Ring: Fire – Compliance. Compliance is the fire that fuels integrity within an organization. It is the passionate adherence to values, ethics, ESG commitments, laws, regulations, standards, and industry practices. Compliance should be controlled and monitored like fire, ensuring it does not become destructive. Compliance ensures that an organization acts responsibly, maintaining its reputation and avoiding legal pitfalls. The integrity of an organization is epitomized in its compliance, demonstrating a commitment to lawful and ethical conduct.
  • The Fourth Ring: Wind—Agility. Agility is the wind, invisible yet powerful, symbolizing an organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to change. In the context of GRC, agility refers to an organization’s nimbleness in adapting its governance, risk management, and compliance strategies to the dynamic business environment. It encompasses the capacity to foresee changes, make informed decisions swiftly, and implement them efficiently to maintain strategic direction and integrity.
  • The Fifth Ring: The Void – Resilience and Integrity. The final ring, the Void, represents the unknown, the challenges and opportunities that have yet to emerge. In GRC, this equates to the overarching themes of resilience and integrity. Resilience is an organization’s ability to endure, recover, and grow in the face of uncertainty and change. On the other hand, integrity is the ethical compass that guides every action and decision, ensuring that the organization remains true to its values and objectives in the context of uncertainty and change.

Mastering GRC is akin to the way of the samurai, a path of discipline, strategic thinking, and ethical action. The five rings – Ground, Water, Fire, Wind, and the Void – provide a framework for understanding and excelling in the complex world of governance, risk management, and compliance. By embodying these principles we have explored together, organizations can navigate the ever-changing business landscape with wisdom and strength, much like the legendary samurai masters of old. This is the essence of the Book of Five GRC Rings – a guide for the modern GRC warrior.

1 comment

  1. An opportunistic and creative way to talk about GRC using an illustration that people may now identify with. Great that you have given it a go to try and make a topic a lot of people may find as dull a little more interesting.

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