• The Experts

Climbing and Dying On the (Risk Analysis) Mountain


Risk analysts are trusted advisors who are usually not the decision maker. In the quest to be right – to have the ‘best” results – risk analysts have a propensity to climb and die on the risk analysis mountain. They lose perspective that decision making is usually an impure, technically flawed process that often does not require the ‘best’ risk analysis.


The risk analysis mountain is an alluring place. Dating to biblical times, oracles and prophets have climbed mountains for inspiration, clarity and righteousness. The mountain provides mental and physical elevation from the masses of confused people down on the plains.

The trouble that all prophets have found is that life happens on the plains. So does decision making.


Establishing the context is the first step in a risk analysis framework. Risk evaluation and risk treatment happen on the other side of risk analysis. These latter steps represent the trade-offs, choices and decisions. Establishing the context, risk evaluation, and risk treatment happen on the plains. Risk analysis is the mountain range that separates the context and the decision making.


Decision making should dictate our approach to risk analysis. Sometimes it is necessary to climb the tallest risk analysis mountain. Other times, perhaps most times, it suffices to simply climb and cross a pass in the risk analysis mountain chain. In some cases, we can simply bypass the mountain chain altogether – after all, there are simply some things that a decision maker will not do, regardless of the risk analysis.


Think about the risk analysis mountain in the entire context of the risk management framework. While an alluring place of inspiration, clarity, and righteousness, it is not the place of the decision maker. Being relevant to the decision maker does not require climbing the tallest peak. There is limited practical usefulness in dying on the (risk analysis) mountain.