Addressing risk does not mean eliminating it

“If a project has no risks don’t do it” – that’s what Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister state on the very first page of chapter one of “Waltzing with Bears”, one of the best books written on risk management.

The last time I wrote about risk I focused mainly on the project level of things. Recent discussions led me to revisit thins topic within the context of the risks themselves.

Eliminating risks also takes away opportunities. Big time.

Depending on the source there are many different definitions of the term “risk.” Mmost of the time it comes down to the severity of an unwanted outcome multiplied by the probability of that scenario. The names for “unwanted outcome” and “probability” differ from field to field, but the gist stays the same.
There are so many things one can do with risks.

  • risks can be mitigated (seatbealts mitigate the risk of a crash)
  • risks can be avoided (staying at home avoids the risk of a car crash)
  • risks can be compensated (first aid at the scene of a crash compensates –a little bit– for the risk of the crash)
  • risks can be reduced (distance sensors and assisted driving reduce the risk of a crash. So do speed limits)

Obviously (?) the option that avoids the risk is also the option that takes away the possibilities, the upside potential. You’d basically be going nowhere.

So when you look at your risk list and try to “eliminate them all” you might want think about other ways of addressing risk than just eliminating them altogether.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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