Worrying About Risk Management

I was recently asked for my thoughts on the relationship between “worrying” and risk management. I thought I’d share my response in this blog.

“Worry” is an emotional state, evoked in response to some condition we have, or might encounter. Our brains are wired for worrying, it’s a species survival skill. The motivation for our worries can be real or imagined, a present reality, or a future possibility, and they can be productive or very distracting and unproductive.

In risk management, we want to leverage productive “worrying” to make us more aware, vigilant and ready for action, but then govern that condition with rational thinking, logic, process and tools to make sound response decisions.

All too often I’ve seen risk statements that offer a vague description of a “worry,” that fails to focus on the specific condition that’s creating the threat. As you know if you’ve read my other blogs, I believe risk management must be treated as a knowledge management activity. Risk is what we don’t know, and what’s uncertain about, or might change, in what we do know, that could bring on harmful consequences. A risk statement then must rationally and objectively identify the lack of, uncertainty about, or instability in, the knowledge required to perform some activity and the potentially harmful effects. A clear risk statement then sets the stage for the subsequent analysis, which estimates the likelihood, consequence and detectability of the condition, which in turn enables informed decisions on, and implementation of, response actions.

In closing, I think it’s important to add that I believe this same kind of thinking is applicable to managing the “euphoria” associated with positive risks, or “opportunities.” This approach will enable better exploitation planning and implementation decisions for those situations as well.


About donmcalister

I retired at the end of 2011, after a 39 year career in the Aerospace industry as an Propulsion Engineer, Engineering Manager and Program Manager. My professional interests and expertise is in the areas of Program, Risk and Knowledge Management. I'm passionate about life-long learning involving a wide variety of topics and I'm committed to sharing my knowledge and ideas with those who are interested. My primary hobby is performing jazz music. I'm a jazz keyboard player, and vocalist, and I'm on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Simi Valley Jazz Club, which is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of jazz music from the '20's through the 60's.
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