Risk and Risk Management
There is so much that is risky in operating a business, shouldn't there be ways to manage the risk? Read the Wikipedia entry on risk management to get an overview of how businesses can manage risk.
According to the standard ISO 31000 - "Risk management – Principles and guidelines on implementation," the process of risk management consists of several steps as follows:
Establishing the context
- observing the context
- the social scope of risk management
- the identity and objectives of stakeholders
- the basis upon which risks will be evaluated, constraints.
- defining a framework for the activity and an agenda for identification
- developing an analysis of risks involved in the process
- mitigation or solution of risks using available technological, human and organizational resources
After establishing the context, the next step in the process of managing risk is to identify potential risks. Risks are about events that, when triggered, cause problems or benefits. Hence, risk identification can start with the source of problems and those of competitors (benefit), or with the problem's consequences.
- Source analysis – Risk sources may be internal or external to the system that is the target of risk management (use mitigation instead of management since by its own definition risk deals with factors of decision-making that cannot be managed).
Some examples of risk sources are: stakeholders of a project, employees of a company or the weather over an airport.
- Problem analysis – Risks are related to identified threats. For example: the threat of losing money, the threat of abuse of confidential information or the threat of human errors, accidents and casualties. The threats may exist with various entities, most important with shareholders, customers and legislative bodies such as the government.
When either source or problem is known, the events that a source may trigger or the events that can lead to a problem can be investigated. For example: stakeholders withdrawing during a project may endanger funding of the project; confidential information may be stolen by employees even within a closed network; lightning striking an aircraft during takeoff may make all people on board immediate casualties.
The chosen method of identifying risks may depend on culture, industry practice and compliance. The identification methods are formed by templates or the development of templates for identifying source, problem or event. Common risk identification methods are:
- Objectives-based risk identification – Organizations and project teams have objectives. Any event that may prevent an objective from being achieved is identified as risk.
- Scenario-based risk identification – In scenario analysis different scenarios are created. The scenarios may be the alternative ways to achieve an objective, or an analysis of the interaction of forces in, for example, a market or battle. Any event that triggers an undesired scenario alternative is identified as risk – see Futures Studies for methodology used by Futurists.
- Taxonomy-based risk identification – The taxonomy in taxonomy-based risk identification is a breakdown of possible risk sources. Based on the taxonomy and knowledge of best practices, a questionnaire is compiled. The answers to the questions reveal risks.
- Common-risk checking – In several industries, lists with known risks are available. Each risk in the list can be checked for application to a particular situation.
- Risk charting – This method combines the above approaches by listing resources at risk, threats to those resources, modifying factors which may increase or decrease the risk and consequences it is wished to avoid. Creating a matrix under these headings enables a variety of approaches. One can begin with resources and consider the threats they are exposed to and the consequences of each. Alternatively one can start with the threats and examine which resources they would affect, or one can begin with the consequences and determine which combination of threats and resources would be involved to bring them about.
Once risks have been identified, they must then be assessed as to their potential severity of impact (generally a negative impact, such as damage or loss) and to the probability of occurrence. These quantities can be either simple to measure, in the case of the value of a lost building, or impossible to know for sure in the case of an unlikely event, the probability of occurrence of which is unknown. Therefore, in the assessment process it is critical to make the best educated decisions in order to properly prioritize the implementation of the risk management plan.
Even a short-term positive improvement can have long-term negative impacts. Take the "turnpike" example. A highway is widened to allow more traffic. More traffic capacity leads to greater development in the areas surrounding the improved traffic capacity. Over time, traffic thereby increases to fill available capacity. Turnpikes thereby need to be expanded in a seemingly endless cycles. There are many other engineering examples where expanded capacity (to do any function) is soon filled by increased demand. Since expansion comes at a cost, the resulting growth could become unsustainable without forecasting and management.
The fundamental difficulty in risk assessment is determining the rate of occurrence since statistical information is not available on all kinds of past incidents and is particularly scanty in the case of catastrophic events, simply because of their infrequency. Furthermore, evaluating the severity of the consequences (impact) is often quite difficult for intangible assets. Asset valuation is another question that needs to be addressed. Thus, best educated opinions and available statistics are the primary sources of information. Nevertheless, risk assessment should produce such information for senior executives of the organization that the primary risks are easy to understand and that the risk management decisions may be prioritized within overall company goals. Thus, there have been several theories and attempts to quantify risks. Numerous different risk formulae exist, but perhaps the most widely accepted formula for risk quantification is: "Rate (or probability) of occurrence multiplied by the impact of the event equals risk magnitude".