How to Evaluate Risk Velocity

Life is filled with risks. Some risks occur slowly. Others strike with little warning. Let’s look at how to evaluate risk velocity and why it matters.

What is Risk Velocity?

Risk velocity is the time to impact. Think of velocity as an estimate of the time frame within which a risk may occur.

Why Risk Velocity Matters

When the velocity is low, we have more time to respond to the risks. For a threat, we may take steps to reduce the probability and impact. The risk owner has time to develop a contingency plan (i.e., a plan we will execute if the risk occurs) and a fallback plan (i.e., a plan we will execute if the contingency plan fails).

If the velocity is very high, threats strike quickly. Thus, these risks are more likely to become issues, costing more time and money. Here are some causal factors for high-velocity risks:

  • Sponsor notifies you that two critical team members need to be transitioned to another project within two weeks
  • The servers that you ordered for your test region are going to be two to three weeks late
  • Wildfires are emerging into the area of your offices

Imagine that two risks have a risk score of 20 on a scale of 25. But Risk A will likely to occur in a two to three weeks where Risk B will take at least six months. Which risk merits your attention most? See the difference?

How to Rate Risk Velocity

A classic way to conduct qualitative risk analysis is to rate probability and impact. For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, we might rate the probability of a risk as 4 and impact as 5. We multiply these ratings to get the risk score of 20.

Optionally, individuals can also include risk velocity in the ratings.

Velocity Scale

Rating

Descriptor

Definition

5

Very High

  • Very rapid, little or no warning, instantaneous

4

High

  • Risk may occur in a matter of days to a few weeks

3

Medium

  • Risk may occur in a matter of a few months

2

Low

  • Risk may occur in a matter of several months

1

Very Low

  • Very slow, occurs over a year or more

Here is a suggested formula:

(Probability + Velocity) x Impact = Risk Score

Let’s assume the velocity is rating as 4. For the previous example, the risk score for would be:

(4 + 4) x 5 = 40

Consider the following risks:

Risk

Probability

Impact

Velocity

Risk Score

A

4

5

4

40

B

2

2

3

10

C

5

4

4

36

D

4

5

1

25

Notice how the velocity ratings provide an important element in evaluating risks. Although Risks A and D have the same probability and impact ratings, Risk A is of greater concern since it will likely occur much sooner.

Word of Caution

Risk managers and project managers should keep risk management as simple as possible. Adding velocity may be worthwhile for an Enterprise Risk Management Program or for larger, more complex projects. Weigh the cost/benefit of adding the risk velocity to your risk evaluation process.

How to Actually Perform a Qualitative Risk Analysis Mini-Course. I’ve developed this course to help you quickly review the concepts of qualitative risk analysis. You’ll be able to test your understanding through a quiz. Additional risk evaluation resources are provided including a FREE risk register template. Click here to enroll!

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