Effective Risk Facilitation: Matching Style to Technique


Risk Doctor Briefing

Dr David Hillson, PMI Fellow, HonFAPM, FIRM

The Risk Doctor Partnership

United Kingdom

There are many techniques for identifying risks, and a skilled facilitator can help to make these more effective. The previous Risk Doctor Briefing outlined three main styles that a risk facilitator can adopt: Directive (where the facilitator controls the workshop from the front) Collaborative (where facilitator and group work together as partners), and Supportive (allowing the group to run the workshop, with the facilitator offering advice and guidance as required). Different facilitation styles work best for various risk identification techniques, as follows:

  • Brainstorming. This technique requires a strong Directive style from the facilitator, in order to set up and enforce the ground rules, to manage group dynamics, to encourage quiet individuals to contribute, to channel dominant individuals, to prevent distractions and diversions, to maintain the schedule, to reach consensus on outputs, and to record identified risks properly.
  • Assumptions & Constraints Analysis. Examination of assumptions and constraints as potential sources of risk requires a disciplined and structured approach that is best supported by a Directive facilitation style. Each assumption or constraint is tested in two dimensions, for its stability and its sensitivity, and those assessed as both unstable and sensitive are converted into risk statements. The facilitator needs to keep the group focused on following this analytical process in order to ensure the quality of the output.
  • SWOT Analysis. This technique requires the group to start with known facts about the organisation (Strengths and Weaknesses), then to use these factors as prompts to consider how they might lead to Opportunities or Threats. Since the base information comes from the group, the facilitator needs a Collaborative style to draw on their knowledge and experience while working with them to transform strengths into opportunities and explore how weaknesses generate threats.
  • Influence diagram. A Collaborative style works well when the group is building an influence diagram to model the key relationships and dependencies in order to determine areas of maximum uncertainty. Group members bring detailed knowledge of the characteristics and parameters of the situation, while the facilitator has knowledge of how to structure this information into an influence diagram. The technique can only work if both facilitator and group work together alongside each other.


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About the Author

Dr. David Hillson

The Risk Doctor



 Dr David Hillson CMgr FRSA FIRM FCMI HonFAPM PMI-Fellow is The Risk Doctor (http://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].

To see other works previously published in the PM World Journal by Dr David Hillson, visit his author showcase at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-david-hillson/