Risk management reconceived: reconciling economic rationality with behavioural tendencies

Ruth Murray-Webster, Sergio Pellegrinelli

Abstract

Risk management practices as described in many leading texts feel counterintuitive to many practitioners and are frequently ignored, despite their being evidently logical and potentially valuable. Such practices are often conceived as a remedial post-planning, audit activity. This paper proposes an approach for dealing with project uncertainty and risk, grounded in economics and taking into account behavioural biases and heuristics. The proposed approach is argued to be an enhancement to conventional risk management practices and one that can serve organisations better while also aligning to experienced practitioners’ intuitive approaches. In particular, we argue: that the focus should be on adding economic value rather than reducing risk per se; that opportunity gain/loss is a superior metric for gauging potential impacts of risky events; and that creation of real options should be emphasised as part of the repertoire of generic response actions to risk. The approach also supports the integration and handling of uncertainty and risk as part of holistic project planning and control.

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