Risk reduction in decision making comes down to two main considerations:
Increasing our knowledge of the problem by such techniques as soft systems engineering, SODA or any of the many tools that enable us to gain a foothold on the nature of the issue and dealing with the uncertainly of the risk. Here is a simple approach that puts some rigour in our thinking when it comes to breaking down a complex problem and deciding what to do next.
There are Ten Commandments in risk reduction (Morgan & Henrion 1990)
- Do your homework
- Problem drives the analysis
- Make analysis simple (but not too simple)
- Identify all relevant assumptions (and write them down)
- Be explicit in your decision making criteria (and write them down)
- Be explicit in the uncertainties (and the unknown unknowns thanks to rumsfelt)
- Do sensitivity and uncertainty analysis
- Iteratively refine the problem statement and the analysis
- Document clearly and completely…
… And expose your work to peer review
If analysis can be understood it becomes more acceptable and people will buy in and have more faith in the outcome – but be careful and do not make the work over complex and avoid over simplifications as well. Both stop people making an informed decision based on what evidence you have. Also as seen above document what you do during the process that way when it goes wrong (as it often does) we can learn and move forward and get it right next time – it is particularly important to set down assumptions and what you think are ‘givens’ – these are the points that we most often get wrong.