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The Fallacy of Proactive Risk Management

Why is Proactive Risk Management a Thing?
Why is Proactive Risk Management a Thing?

In recent months there's a buzzword that has been circulating: "Proactive Risk Management." While it may seem like a term that denotes a forward-thinking approach to mitigating risks, it is essential to pause and reflect on whether this phrase is truly meaningful.

In this article, we delve into the topic of risk management and why the term "Proactive Risk Management" might not be as relevant or necessary as it seems.

The Essence of Risk Management

Before we explore the idea further, let's establish the fundamental principles of risk management. At its core, risk management is a proactive endeavour, characterized by anticipating, planning, and acting to create an impact. In essence, the very definition of risk management embodies this concept of proactivity. After all, its primary goal is to identify, assess, and handle risks before they materialize into issues or incidents.

Risk Management vs. Issue Management

A crucial point of contention arises when people confuse risk management with issue management. The two are distinct concepts and should not be conflated. Issue management typically occurs in response to non-conformance, problems, or incidents that have already happened. This process involves corrective and preventive actions aimed at rectifying the situation and preventing its recurrence. Issue management is inherently reactive, addressing events that are in the past.

On the other hand, risk management is forward-looking. It deals with uncertainty and aims to identify potential risks and their consequences before they come to fruition. In this context, there is no such thing as "reactive risk management" because by definition, risk management focuses on what might happen in the future, not what has already occurred.

The Fallacy of "Proactive Risk Management"

Now, let's return to the crux of the matter – the term "Proactive Risk Management." The inherent problem with this terminology is that it adds an unnecessary layer of redundancy. As we've established, risk management is inherently proactive, and there is no need to qualify it as such. To label it as "proactive" is, in fact, tautological and can lead to confusion.

Furthermore, by using the phrase "Proactive Risk Management," we risk perpetuating the misconception that risk management, as traditionally understood, is also a reactive process. This misconception undermines the crucial role of risk management in various industries, including safety, security, sustainability, quality and other compliance domains.

The Importance of Clarity

Clarity of terminology is essential in professional domains. When we use terms like "Proactive Risk Management," we risk diluting the significance and distinctiveness of risk management as a proactive discipline. It is crucial to differentiate between risk management and issue management to maintain the integrity of these processes.

While the intent behind the term "Proactive Risk Management" may be to emphasize the forward-thinking nature of risk management, it inadvertently muddles the understanding of this essential discipline.

Risk management, by its very nature, is proactive, and there is no need to qualify it as such. It is crucial to use precise terminology to ensure that risk management retains its distinctiveness and fulfills its role in contending with uncertainties and potential threats.

As professionals in the field of risk management, let's strive for clarity and precision in our terminology, avoiding the unnecessary redundancy of "Proactive Risk Management."



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