Modifying Risk Behaviour with Change Management


Risk Doctor Briefing

By Andrew McGregor

The Risk Doctor Partnership

South Africa

Have you found it hard to get commitment to risk management from your project team, sponsor, or other stakeholders? Project practitioners are naturally focused on delivery, and they prefer to think about their next deadline, instead of worrying about something that may never happen. Some project leaders resort to threatening their team into doing risk management (“Think what might happen if we don’t do it!”), or to bribing team members with promises (“Life will be so much easier if you succeed in managing your risks.”) There must be a better way to get people to change their behaviour and manage risk willingly.

Change management can help.

Among the many change management frameworks available, the ADKAR® Model from Prosci offers a structured way to encourage the behavioural change needed to engage project practitioners in risk management (find more details at http://www.prosci.com/adkar-model/). ADKAR leads individuals through a process of Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement, and each step requires the completion of the steps before it. We can use ADKAR to help people adopt risk management in a way that is committed and effective, by following these five steps:

  • Awareness: Before people change their behaviour, they must understand the need for change. Why should we adopt risk management on our project? What would happen if we didn’t?
  • Desire: Having understood why change is necessary, people must develop the desire to own the change for themselves. Each person must see “What’s in it for me?” in a way that inspires them.
  • Knowledge: When people are excited about adopting risk management, they will then be receptive to training, and we must be careful not to provide risk management training too soon.
  • Ability: Like most things, the ability to manage risk comes from doing it in practice. We need to use our risk management knowledge on our projects, so that we develop the ability to apply it effectively.
  • Reinforcement: It is natural to slip back into the old way of doing things. Behavioural change requires regular reinforcement of each of the four previous steps to sustain risk management through the project. So we need to make sure that people remain aware of the importance of managing risk, and maintain their motivation to do it themselves, by refreshing their risk management knowledge and skills, and supporting their ability to use that knowledge in practice.


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About the Author


pmwj39-Oct2015-McGregor-PHOTOAndrew McGregor

South Africa




Almost two decades of corporate life equipped Andrew McGregor to follow his entrepreneurial instincts and his company has kept him off the streets ever since. He is founder of Cohesion Solutions, a professional services company dedicated to partnering with selected clients to facilitate meaningful, sustainable business improvement and growth of their people. His special interest is harnessing and further developing best practices in order to help leaders and their teams thrive in an ever-changing business landscape. In other words, he regularly filches other peoples’ great ideas.

He lives in the country just outside Nottingham Road in the KZN Midlands of South Africa, with his wife Barbara; he travels extensively to consult on business strategy, coach business leaders and present his leadership keynote talks. He is afflicted by being a life-long supporter of West Ham Football Club, despite many failed attempts to transfer allegiance to a more socially acceptable team. Also a wannabe red wine collector, but drinks most of it.

Andrew can be contacted at [email protected] or on +27 (0) 833 00 3232