David Hancock blogs about his new book on project risk management

The general perception amongst most project and risk managers that we can somehow control the future is one of the most ill-conceived in risk management.

The biggest problem is how to measure risks in terms of their potential likelihood, their possible consequences, their correlation and the public’s perception of them.

The situation is further complicated by identifying different categories of problem types; Tame problems (straight-forward simple linear causal relationships and can be solved by analytical methods), and ‘messes’ which have high levels of system complexity and have interrelated or interdependent problems needing to be considered holistically.

However, when an overriding social theory or social ethic is not shared the project or risk manager also faces ‘wickedness’. Wicked problems are characterised by high levels of behavioural complexity, but what confuses real decision-making is that behavioural and dynamic complexities co-exist and interact in what is known as wicked messes.

In my new book (Tame, Messy and Wicked Risk Leadership) I’ve explored these problems with an eye to helping professionals understand the limitations of the present project and risk management techniques.

The book introduces the concepts of societal benefit and behavioural risk, and illustrates why project risk has followed a particular path, developing from the basis of engineering, science and mathematics.

I argue for, and offer, complimentary models from the worlds of sociology, philosophy and politics to be added to the risk toolbox, and provide a framework to understand which particular type of problem (tame, messy, wicked or messy and wicked) may confront you and which tools will provide the greatest potential for successful outcomes.

Finally I also introduce the concept of ‘risk leadership’ to aid the professional in delivering projects in a world of uncertainty and ambiguity.

David Hancock is the author of a new book on project risk management called Tame, Messy and Wicked Risk Leadership. He is currently the head of risk at London Underground, having previously worked for the London Development Agency and in the construction sector on large scale projects like Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Find out about the new book here.