The 5 Steps of Risk Management

As an Army leader, you are required to plan and execute difficult, complex and dangerous training.  After all, the best preparation for combat is tough, realistic training.  To train and ensure minimal risk exposure, the Army utilizes the risk management process to give leaders a framework to take only the necessary risks to accomplish the training intent.  Understanding the risk management process and combining that with critical thinking, you can make informed, deliberate decisions that will lead you to the best outcome under the most difficult conditions.  This article will cover the 5 Steps of Risk Management.

5 steps to risk management

The 5 steps to risk management

#1. Identify Hazards: Hazards and elements of risk are everywhere!  You must be able to identify the hazards you face- enemy contact, heat stroke, fratricide, etc.  A hazard, basically, is any actual or potential condition that can cause injury, illness or death of personnel OR damage to or loss of equipment, property or mission degradation.   Keep this thought in mind as you list down your hazards.

#2. Assess Hazards:  Hazards are inevitable and are separate from risk.  Risk is the measurement of how much danger a hazard can pose.  By estimating the probability and severity of each hazard, you can more effectively estimate the risk for the training.  First, determine the likelihood of each hazard.  Next, determine how severely each hazard will affect the success of your mission and the safety of your Soldiers.  Last, prioritize the hazards, giving highest priority to those that are most destructive and most likely to occur.  Remember, sometimes you will face many hazards of equal severity and you must use your best judgment in prioritizing them.

#3. Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions: After assessing each hazard, leaders develop controls to either eliminate the hazard or reduce its risk.  When developing controls, leaders consider why the hazard is there, not just the hazard itself.  There are different controls such as educational controls (utilizing the knowledge and skills of your Soldiers, etc.), physical controls (barriers, guards, ear protection, etc.) and avoidance.  No matter which you choose, your control must remove the hazard or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.  Additional, your control must be feasible and acceptable (i.e. control benefits must outweigh the cost of implementing). A good thing to do when developing controls is review LISTS:

  • Leadership– Leaders are competent to implement controls?
  • Individual– Individual Soldiers are sufficiently self-disciplined to implement a control?
  • Support– Availability of adequate personnel, equipment, supplies ad facilities necessary to implement a suitable control?
  • Training– Knowledge and skills are adequate to implement a control?
  • Standards– Guidance and procedures for implementing a control are clear, practical and specific?

Once you have developed these controls, you then must assess your residual risk associated with each hazard and the overall residual risk of the training or mission.  Then, you must determine whether the risk is worth taking.  If you determine that the risk is too high, you must either develop additional controls, modify or reject a given plan of action.  Remember, that the Commander alone decides if controls are acceptable and whether to accept the resulting residual risk.

#4. Implement Controls: You should ensure that controls are part of, or become SOP.  It is critical to convert controls into clear, simple orders that Soldiers at al levels can understand.  When you implement controls, you must coordinate and communicate with appropriate military units and civilian agencies.  Additionally, you must explain to your subordinates how to implement controls.

#5. Supervise and Evaluate Controls: You must supervise rehearsals and execution and ensure that everyone is enforcing standards and controls.  You can do so through spot checks, inspections, SITREPS, brief-backs, buddy checks and close supervision by you and NCOs.  During the training or mission you modify controls and implement new ones as necessary, anticipating, identifying and assessing new hazards.  For example, Soldiers may become fatigued or equipment may begin to wear down.  Your goal should always to keep risks at an acceptable level and to avoid any complacency.

Finally, when all is said and done, you must evaluate how well you executed the risk management process.  The reason for doing so is to find ways to repeat your successes and to identify lessons learned and benefit from those experiences.  Think about why some controls worked and how you would act if you encountered that hazard again.  Always be aiming to make controls more effective by modifying them, changing the way you implement them or by developing different controls.  This last step is very important.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  When leaders become skilled in the process of risk management, they effectively identify, assess and control risks inherent in training and combat.  To ability to manage risk using these 5 Steps is fundamental to your confidence and competence as an Army leader and is critical to conserving combat power and resources.  Learn it and use it!

If you have any questions, ask them below. Thank you.

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3 thoughts on “The 5 Steps of Risk Management”

  1. Risk management is an incredibly valuable skill. It also translates well into the civilian world. Business propositions live and die based on how they are assessed by risk management. If you want to a good leader you’d better learn risk management.

  2. The Service Member Support Division in Wisconsin contracted a personal financial counselor and is available for free to veterans for consultation. He provides a worksheet for an initial assessment of your situation and helps you plan to be better able to meet your financial goals.

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