Risk Management Is Not Hard to Understand, It’s Hard to Accept

It’s been about two months since I proposed that my local community government create a risk management group. I know some new ideas can take time to be digested, and I did receive a few polite responses including, at the mayor’s request, a meeting with a trustee to discuss my idea. But I have some reason to be discouraged about any possible positive outcome. I can see in the distance a pattern forming, expressed by this formula: good intentions + good idea + control issues = Not this year, thank you.

A good idea, and a simple one. Community risk management is a reasoned approach to comparing the gains and losses (not just risks) of a proposal in order to help select an outcome with the greatest – you guessed it – gains, with the least loss.

Simple – invite the heads of the local government’s departments, add some trustees and the mayor, and hold a meeting to discuss some issue using a structured approach consisting of three things:

1. A clear statement of the issue including the goal. Eg. a problem intersection with a goal of reducing risk to pedestrians crossing it.
2. A list of the parts (so-called risk factors) that make up the issue: e.g. vehicle speed, crosswalk length, visibility of vehicles and pedestrians, cost of remediation option.
3. Then prioritize those factors in order to identify those most needing change (looking at cost at the end).

Simple, yes, maybe even commonplace: probably many if not most meetings follow some similar path. Maybe this “good idea” is not really necessary and should just go gentle into that good nightWhy do I think this idea may receive resistance? Instituting a reasoned approach – why bother? Why not? If applying reason to an issue is a good idea, does not enhancing clarity make the good even better?

When hearing my concerns a neighbor commented that it’s not so much a disagreement with a reasoned approach that gets in the way of establishing a structured process, but that people are naturally married to their own ideas. I can see that of course. But after consideration, I added to that: Control – it’s difficult to assign control to a policy that levels playing field. Meaning, “I want to have my idea without having to use a system to figure out what that idea is.”

Anything that challenges individual control can be perceived as a threat.