Facing risk: stop, look and listen

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  • 2 IEEE ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT REVIEW, VOL. 33, NO. 1, FIRST QUARTER 2005

    Facing Risk: Stop, Look and ListenThen I felt like some watcher of the skies

    When a new planet swims into his ken;

    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

    He stard at the Pacificand all his men

    Lookd at each other with a wild surmise

    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.John Keats, On First Looking into

    Chapmans Homer

    Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.Pablo Picasso

    WADE H. SHAWFlorida Institute of Technology

    IEEE DOI 10.1109/EMR.2004.842999

    HAPPY NEW YEAR! By the time this issue of EMR reaches you, 2005 will have established itself andevents unfolded that no one could have imagined. I look back at my first year as your editor and I am proudto have served the IEEE and the growing population of managers involved in engineering and technology.The future looks bright even with the uncertainties and risks that we face individually, in our work andsocial organizations, and as a civilization.

    I recall my old pre-school admonition when confronting a crosswalk or intersection: stop, look and listen. Thiswas often repeated to my inattentive ears so that it became ingrained in my subconscious mind. When wethink of risk assessment, risk management, or risk mitigation the caution still holds.

    In this issue we look at risk from several points of view. We know that the underlying concept of risk isquite simplerisk is the combined impact of the uncertainty of an event and that events consequence. Wecan use probabilities to represent uncertainty or use less precise but common expressions in our humanvocabulary like rare or likely. The consequence of an event is typically described by the significance of theevents impact on cost, schedule, or performance. Engineering standards exist for quantifying uncertaintyand consequence that have gained widespread adoption in practice. Risk management is now a standardcomponent of project planning as well as the larger domain of engineering management.

    We know that risks change over time as the circumstances that we operate in change and as we adapt to theenvironment around us. We know that our human efforts to anticipate and manage risks directly influencethe risk itself and we may be able to reduce or eliminate some risks. We know that a portfolio of risks existwith a range of uncertainty and consequence that require us to deploy our resources carefully to address themost serious riskstypically those with combined high likelihood and significant consequence. I believe thatsuccessful project management is more about managing risk and requirements, and less about managingcost, schedule and performance.

  • IEEE ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT REVIEW, VOL. 33, NO. 1, FIRST QUARTER 2005 3

    This issue includes recent articles that touch on the theme of risk. It is important to recognize that a riskconsequence need not be bad or compromise our efforts. In fact, a risk can be an event with uncertainty aswell as a very positive impact. We manage all risks in similar ways but our efforts to reduce a negative riskmight be very different from our efforts to encourage a positive risk. I like the idea of risk managementthat includes adopting a healthy attitude towards risks that are beneficial towards our goals while at thesame time keeping watch over risks that can hurt us.

    So, use this issue of EMR to learn about facing risk. I look forward to another year providing you withthematically oriented articles to support your professional growth. Stop, Look and Listen.

    footer1: 01: v02: vi03: vii04: viii05: ix06: xfooterL1: 0-7803-8408-3/04/$20.00 2004 IEEEheadLEa1: ISSSTA2004, Sydney, Australia, 30 Aug. - 2 Sep. 2004