Risk Response Lessons from the Beach

Learn threat response strategies

Project managers may make risk decisions without much thought. How is this possible? Well, after managing projects for years, you know the drill. You simply know how to respond to the most common risks.

Every year, my family takes a trip to the beach for fun and relaxation. I’ve gone to the same beach my entire life. We do a lot of the same things each year—walk on the beach, swim, grill out, crab, and fish.

Picture of ocean

With each of these activities, I do things to manage risks and frankly, I rarely think about it (because I’ve done it for so long). Allow me to share a few examples.

Threat Response Strategies

1. Accept risks

Sometimes I fish from the shore. Actually, I wade out into the water about waist deep. More than once, I’ve caught a shark. I’ve had crabs bite my toes. And I’ve been stung by jellyfish. But every year, I wade into the water and fish again. That is to say, I accept the risks.

2. Avoid risks

Some of you think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. But, if I see lots of jellyfish or hear about sharks along the shore, I don’t go into the water that day.

3. Mitigate risks

I love to get out on the beach on sunny days. But with it, comes the risk of sunburn. Before going out and throughout the day, I put on sunscreen.

In the evenings, the mosquitoes and yellow flies are terrible. Before venturing out for an evening walk on the beach, I put on an insect repellent.

4. Transfer risks

Each year, we rent a beach cottage. In this manner, I transfer the homeowner risk. I sign a rental agreement and let the owner carry those burdens. This relieves me of the homeowner risks of fires, hurricanes, and wind.

An Argument Against Risk Management

Notice—in these examples—these are things that I have done many times without much thought. Here’s why some project managers argue against risk management processes. I hear them say, “Why all the fuss? I know what to do without all the formal risk management stuff. I’ve managed projects for years.”

Let me be clear—as we develop our risk management plans, identify, evaluate, respond to, and control risks, keep it practical. By all means, leverage your experience and knowledge. Our motive is not to add unnecessary overhead or make risk management complicated.

For small projects, you can manage the risks with minimal effort and process. When you are asked to manage large, complex projects and programs with lots of risks, scale up your risk management processes. Otherwise, the sharks, jellyfish, mosquitoes, yellow flies, and other threats may ruin your day. Best wishes!

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