Risk Doctor Briefing: Implicit and Explicit Risk Management


Dr David Hillson FIRM, HonFAPM, PMI Fellow

The Risk Doctor 


Have you ever been asked “How risky is your project?” Most project managers find it hard to answer this question. Your Risk Register lists all the risks you’ve identified, and these are prioritised for attention and action, with responses and owners allocated to each risk. But how can a list of risks answer the “How risky” question? We need a different concept to describe the overall risk exposure of a project, which is different from the individual risks that need to be managed.

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has addressed this in the Practice Standard for Project Risk Management, which has two distinct definitions of risk. The first is individual risk which is defined as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives. It also defines overall project risk as “the effect of uncertainty on the project as a whole.” The UK Association for Project Management (APM) also has two similar definitions of risk in its Body of Knowledge.

This dual concept of risk is important and useful when considering how to manage risk in projects. At one level the project manager is responsible for identifying, assessing and managing individual risks. At another higher level the project manager is also required to account to the project sponsor, the project owner and other stakeholders for the overall risk of the project. These two levels might be distinguished as the risks in the project and the risk of the project. 


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About the Author

flag-ukDr. David HillsonDr. David Hillson 


Dr David Hillson CMgr FRSA FIRM FCMI HonFAPM PMI-Fellow is The Risk Doctor (www.risk-doctor.com).  As an international risk consultant, David is recognised as a leading thinker and expert practitioner in risk management. He consults, writes and speaks widely on the topic and he has made several innovative contributions to the field. David’s motto is “Understand profoundly so you can explain simply”, ensuring that his work represents both sound thinking and practical application.

David Hillson has over 25 years’ experience in risk consulting and he has worked in more than 40 countries, providing support to clients in every major industry sector, including construction, mining, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, financial services, transport, fast-moving consumer goods, energy, IT, defence and government. David’s input includes strategic direction to organisations facing major risk challenges, as well as tactical advice on achieving value and competitive advantage from effectively managing risk.

David’s contributions to the risk discipline over many years have been recognised by a range of awards, including “Risk Personality of the Year” in 2010-11. He received both the PMI Fellow award and the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award from the Project Management Institute (PMI®) for his work in developing risk management. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the UK Association for Project Management (APM), where he has actively led risk developments for nearly 20 years.  David Hillson is an active Fellow of the Institute of Risk Management (IRM), and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to contribute to its Risk Commission. He is also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and a Member of the Institute of Directors (IOD).

Dr Hillson can be contacted at [email protected].