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Transitioning to risk manager: Joe Gossage’s story


27 Jun, 2019

Final Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Risk Manager for the Executive Committee of the Army Board, British Army

How did you get your job? 

Risk management training for Army Officers starts the minute you walk in the door at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It’s an integral part of the Army’s planning process, although for the early part of an Officer’s career it is focused more on making high-impact decisions while under pressure in potentially life-threatening situations. As a Royal Engineer Officer (the Army’s construction specialists, in simple terms) I have also been exposed to risk management in the delivery of multiple construction projects.

However, once you reach the rank of Major, your education starts to shift towards a focus on managing the Army as a business to deliver operational outputs, and so managing risk and performance become more significant. Formal training comes at the Junior Staff College, but much of it is on-the-job as you are expected to contribute to performance and risk reporting to your higher headquarters.

When I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel I was also lucky enough to be selected to attend the Defence Academy of the UK for the Advanced Command and Staff Course, where I also studied for a master’s degree in Defence Studies. A significant part of this course looked at risk management in the corporate space, so when I was asked to apply internally for my next post I jumped at the chance to take on the risk manager role on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Army Board. The Board is chaired by the Chief of the General Staff, and directs and develops the corporate functions of the Army to ensure we can deliver the outputs required of us by the government.

Prior to starting the job I undertook a three-day introduction to risk, but I found it light on content and wanted something that could provide me with a more in-depth understanding while complementing my on-the-job training. I attended the Risk Leader’s Conference at the IRM and discussed the International Certificate with some of the organisers and delegates; it seemed like the right route for me to take. It has been excellent as a handrail for me in understanding the utility of risk management and continuously improving how the Army does its risk management.

What’s a typical day like as a risk manager for the Army’s Executive Board?

I’m now in a new post as Commanding Officer of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, but looking back to my previous post, much of what I did was based on a quarterly reporting cycle, which dictates the daily activity, but a typical day involved interfacing with different departments across the whole Army to gain perspective on the Army’s strategic and operating risks, or providing evidence to the Assurance committee and Internal Audit that we had the right processes in place. The Army was on a path to refine and develop its risk management, so there was inevitably something new to learn or consider most days. 

What did you enjoy most about working in risk management?

I got to see the whole picture: risks and opportunities. It was thrilling to be influencing the giant leaps the Army is making in changing how it operates to ensure that the service delivered is exceptional for the government and the taxpayer. 

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge is ensuring that people see the value in risk management as the process matures. Although every Army officer has a fundamental understanding of risk, they don’t always see the link between risk on military operations and in the corporate space immediately.

In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?

I was really keen to formalise my knowledge, skills and experience. The senior leadership of Army is very supportive of this and, since the implementation of Lord Levene’s reforms on Defence in 2010, has committed to ensuring that the right people are equipped with the right skills to succeed. With an annual budget of £9bn, ensuring we behave better as a business ultimately assists in achieving our objectives and saving the taxpayer money. In addition it shows a commitment from the Army to managing talent and investing in its people.

What would you say to others thinking about joining the IRM as a member?

I would absolutely and wholeheartedly encourage them. The IRM has provided me with the knowledge to succeed, while formally bringing together 20 years of experience in risk management. In addition, through attending seminars and professional development sessions at the IRM, I have been able to gain knowledge and share the best practice of others’ experience across an incredibly diverse selection of industries. My membership has also encouraged others across the Army Headquarters to apply to join and undertake formal qualifications.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions? Has being linked to the IRM helped?

As mentioned earlier, I have now moved to a new post commanding a regiment of around 500 soldiers – effectively a medium-sized business where you would probably be surprised by how similar it can be to the corporate space at times. I am also hoping to fit in an attachment to a civilian firm for a few months to expand my experience and learn from industry best practice. Beyond that I would hope to return to Army Headquarters or the MoD in a role where my knowledge, skills and experience can add value. Being linked to the IRM gives me the credibility to talk about risk across defence, and interface with the senior leadership of the Army with an informed and reliable perspective. The skills I have gained from undertaking this course have now been incorporated into the job specification for any future holders of this role.

Top tips

Getting to my rank in the Army takes years of commitment and dedication, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. We have a very competent civil service, which would be a more direct route into the Army Headquarters or the MoD. The Reserves are a particular area of growth, with a wide range of opportunities where defence can really draw upon their knowledge, skills and experience. So if you are looking for a challenge, join our team!

Find out more about the IRM, its training, membership and qualifications at

Read another in-depth case study, Alastair Allison