The task of managing risks effectively is confounded by a classical paradox. That is, if risks are being effectively managed as a matter of routine, life can become boring. There will be very few surprises. Nobody becomes aware of just how effective risk management actions actually taken, have proven to be. Nobody slaps you on the back and congratulates you for a job exceedingly well done: in contrast, if something goes wrong and the whole world lines up to tell you so.
In risk management, today’s man-made situations are very frequently created in the days, months, or years before anything untoward is seen, meaning that risk cause-and-effect are not always proximate in time and space. Significant delays may be involved and the cause may not be within our immediate view, and the effect when it happens comes as a surprise.
The best that an effective risk manager can expect to achieve in the way of gaining kudos for their work is to follow-up a disastrous situation, to clean up the mess created by a predecessor. However, to think in such a way is both mercenary and selfish. Generally speaking, there is little kudos to be gained by being an effective risk manager.
This book starts with the hypothesis that effective risk management derives from being acutely aware of what is happening. Situation awareness verges on being a nervous state of heightened sensitivity to what is going on, and what might happen at some stage in the future. We might envisage ourselves sitting in the back seat of every car speeding down the highway on a foggy or rainy night. We sit nervously, and silently, watching the actions every driver dealing with the treacherous conditions. We may imagine an impending pile up, but like being in a nightmare we are unable to speak. We are only able to observe and wonder at the likely future events.