The Challenge of Risk Acceptance

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Every project manager knows risk management is important. It’s drummed into them in PM101-style training, and it’s an element that stakeholders care a lot about. It’s also an aspect of project management that has well-established management theories. The four different approaches of mitigate, eliminate, transfer or accept have been around for longer than any of us can remember—and are still perfectly valid (if somewhat simplistic).

But not all of those management approaches to risks are as well understood as others. In particular, the concept of risk acceptance seems to cause new PMs a few problems, so I want to look at it in a little more detail.

Let’s start by getting rid of a misconception that I still see thrown about, sometimes by people who are supposed to be training PMs on risk management techniques. The approach is to accept the risk, it isn’t to ignore it. Risks should never be ignored, and if anyone tells you anything different, then question their advice on every aspect of project management because they don’t know what they are talking about!

That’s not being melodramatic. If a risk is ignored, there is no one watching it to see if things change and if it is becoming a bigger issue that threatens the success of the project. And that ultimately is the responsibility of the project manager. So, don’t …

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

- Edith Wharton

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