What I have observed after reviewing risk management programs across diverse industries that include oil & gas, pipeline, medical device, chemical processing, high-tech, government, and others is that the ability to address uncertainty and its effects is largely predetermined by design. This holds whether it is the design of a product, process, project, or an organization.
The process industry provides an illustrative example of what this looks like. For companies in this sector the majority of safe guards and risk controls are designed into a facility and process before it ever goes on-line. In fact, when a given process becomes operational every future change before it is made is evaluated against how it impacts the design and associated safety measures.
This is what risk management looks for companies in high-risk, highly-regulated sectors. The ability to handle uncertainty is designed, maintained, and improved throughout the expected life of the process. Risk informs all decisions and risk management is implicit in every function and activity that is performed.
For all companies that contend with uncertainty risk planning and implementation is not optional. Without adequate preparation it is not possible to effectively prevent or recover from the effects of uncertainty when they occur. Hoping for the best is a good thing, but it is not an effective strategy against risk. What is effective is handling uncertainty by design.