Identifying risks

What to read first: Particular risks Next steps: How your unit might not deliver the outcomes

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You have now come to the first activity unique to ‘risk management’: the identification of specific risks to the unit outcomes for the year. Each specific risk is a pathway to an unplanned outcome for the unit, at the end of the business planning year.

Doubts, worries and dreams also useful starting points for identifying risks. You will have plenty of those already.

As discussed under Particular risks, you understand a specific risk when you know:

  • why it is uncertain
  • the event that may or may not happen, or the assumption that may be incorrect
  • the pathway to the year-end outcome.
  • the matching year-end outcome picture in your collection.

Your initial doubts, worries and dreams will be a fragment of a complete risk, without all of components spelled out.

The fast track to assurance begins by taking each of your doubts, worries and dreams, and filling in the missing components for each one.

Your instincts will be a good guide to the risks that deserve your attention first.

To reach a level of assurance that you can share, you then work systematically through

  • each of the unplanned outcomes in your picture collection
  • each of the reasons why your outcomes are uncertain
  • each of the assumptions that may be wrong
  • each of the foreseeable events that may or may not happen.

Each of these starting points is also a fragment of a risk, for which you then find missing links between uncertainty and future outcomes for your unit.

You can never be sure that you have found all of the possible fragments of each type. What you can do is construct useful checklists for each type of fragment. Those checklists will give you some assurance that you have given proper attention to potential risk fragments within each type.

All of that could take some time. You can get a grip on at least some of your risks more quickly, by pulling ideas from pre-existing documents. The quick benefit from looking at those is that you will be sure of not missing a risk, or risk fragment, that someone has already found for you.

Your first risks should come from what is bothering you most—doubts and worries. From there you can allow yourself to think about what might be possible above and beyond planned success—dreams and aspirations.

You can end with a systematic search for risks, based on potential unplanned outcomes, on the potential for unpredictable events and wrong assumptions, and on the sources of uncertainty that surround even tightly disciplined plans. You also check existing sources of risk awareness.

Capturing the dreams and doubts will help you feel more confident. You will feel movement toward genuine assurance.

You will feel genuine assurance when you have worked through the potential outcomes, potential hazards, and potential events in a systematic and thorough way. At that point you will know you haven’t missed any risks that others will see.

If you are not an expert on the activity in your work unit, make best use of the expertise available to you. Not everyone will be overtly helpful, but asking ‘what else can go wrong?’, and not getting a specific answer, gives you at least some assurance that you haven’t overlooked something that is common knowledge to people working in that area. You may find out much more, but it isn’t wise to spend further time on every off-hand comment that you might hear.

Previous article for Managers

Particular risks

‘A risk’ is one pathway by which something unpredictable could cause an unplanned outcome on an objective. The proper description of a risk includes the full pathway, from the reason for uncertainty to the year-end outcome. ‘The risk’ has not been identified until that description is complete. The risks in business planning are complete pathways. Each one ends at an unplanned outcome for the year. You will have a picture of that unplanned outcome in your collection. You register the identified risks.

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Parent articles

Next steps: How your unit might not deliver the outcomes

‘A risk’ is one pathway by which something unknowable could cause the year-end reality to match a picture of an outcome other than planned success. You find those pathways to outcomes other than success. You estimate the likelihood of each complete risk pathway. You also estimate directly the likelihood of each outcome picture. The likelihood of an outcome reflects the total of the likelihoods for all ‘risks’ (pathways) leading to that outcome. You then note the outcomes with acceptable and unacceptable likelihoods. Your picture collection as a map of confidence: The Risk Based Outcomes Forecast.

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Index to the topic Risk in work unit business planning

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