Risk Perception Management Plan: A Theoretical Overview


By M. Dianne Leveridge, PhD and Gregory B. Baecher, PhD

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA


Risk engineers conduct comprehensive risk assessments for many types of large projects, often singularly focused on the technical assessment.  Overlooking comprehensive community stakeholders in the assessment process increases stakeholder skepticism, apprehension, and mistrust regarding safety, health and welfare of nearby stakeholders, for complex projects.  Social experts repeatedly document connections between problem framing, communication processes, and risks.  This paper considers formalizing connections between the risk register to stakeholder perceptions and communication plans. A theoretical Risk Perception Management (RPM) plan connects risks into communication plans based upon including social expert suggestions for four large projects:  two bio-safety-level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories and two levee system assessment projects.  The concept of a Risk Perception Management (RPM) Plan integrated with the risk register is presented.  The paper shows how the RPM concept iteratively captures stakeholder perceptions to build associated communication plans, thus potentially increasing risk assessment value for stakeholders and decision-makers.

Background & Motivation

The variety of risk assessment processes of high-impact, low frequency hazards frequently contributes to project schedule delays. Experts suggest improvements to federal agencies regarding risk assessment methodology, processes, communication, and characterization, including specifically articulating subjective elements associated with uncertainty (Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment & Risk Management, 1997; NRC, 1983; EPA, 2000; EPA, 2003; NRC, 1994; NRC, 2008). Unfortunately, adoption of these suggestions remains inconsistent and incomplete (North, 2003; Mirer, 2003; NRC, 2008b; GAO, 2006; NRC, 2010c).

Planning risk assessment activities connected to the decision at hand has been repeatedly recommended since the Red Book (EPA, 2000; Hoch, Kunreuther, & Gunther, 2001; NRC, 1996; NRC, 2008; Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment & Risk Management, 1997). Risk Assessment practice which delivers a report failing to meet the needs of the problem at hand remains a pervasive issue (Charnley, 2003; Anderson, 2003).   In addition to problem statement disconnects, the 1983 Red Book recognized potential conflicts of interest when risk analysts deliver assessments and also make risk management decisions. To avoid this conflict, the Red Book suggested separating analysts and managers (NRC, 1983). Risk assessment practice within federal agencies resulted in multiple interpretations regarding the conceptual separation between analysts and managers. The Risk Perception Management (RPM) plan concept suggests collaborating with social experts toward closing the separation while simultaneously avoiding conflicts of interest.

Conceptually, the RPM plan captures stakeholder perceptions through iterative collaboration between risk engineers and social science experts; subsequently enabling management decisions through appropriate stakeholder communication. Further research includes using the RPM to verify increased value-add of the assessment process. Capturing stakeholder perceptions throughout the risk analysis process, coupled with collaborative communication, facilitates potentially improving risk analysis value.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 2nd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in June 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.



About the Authors


pmwj38-Sep2015-Leveridge-Baecher-PHOTO1Dr. M. Dianne Leveridge

Maryland & Kentucky, USA



Dr. M. Dianne Leveridge
earned her PhD in Civil Engineering Project Management at the University of Maryland Clark School in 2014; holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering Project Management from the University of Maryland-College Park, a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. She holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

A retired manufacturing engineer, she has 20 years’ experience managing global projects and people, meeting deliverables and expectations in a manufacturing environment on several continents. During her career, she has developed and delivered projects ranging from $50 thousand dollars to $20 million dollars. In Fall 2014 she began serving as the Director of Technical Programs for the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, a system of 16 community colleges across Kentucky. Dr. Leveridge can be contacted at [email protected]


pmwj38-Sep2015-Leveridge-Baecher-PHOTO2Dr. Gregory B. Baecher

University of Maryland
College Park, MD, USA



Professor Gregory Baecher
received his bachelor of science in civil engineering in 1968 from the University of California, Berkeley, and his PhD in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972.   Since 1995, he has been the Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland, also serving as Chair of the Department of CEE until 2003. He principally works on risk and reliability methods for civil infrastructure affected by natural hazards, with a focus on geotechnical and water resources engineering. Dr. Baecher can be contacted at [email protected]