Risk Management: It’s 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 reasons 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 of a proposal (not just risks of harm) in order to help select an outcome resulting in the greatest gains, with the least loss.

Simple – invite representatives of local government’s departments, add some trustees, 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. Prioritize those factors in order to identify those most needing change.

Simple, yes, maybe even commonsense: probably most meetings follow a similar path. Why do I think this idea may receive resistance?

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. I also added: Control – it’s difficult to assign control to a policy that levels the playing field: “I want to have my idea without having to use a system to figure out if it’s a good idea.”

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

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