Risk Management Exercise 3 - Shared Narrative & Understanding


If different parts of your organization have differing understandings or perceptions of a risk, it can spell disaster. While all may agree on the wording of a risk, if one department doesn’t think a risk will affect them, they are likely to be less vigilant or concerned if it occurs because they don’t appreciate the wider impact, and that can create significant problems for the rest of the business.

Review objective

The objective for this exercise is to identify differences of opinion, understanding, and the priority of risks between departments. The exercise is designed to promote discussion and develop a shared narrative and understanding about each risk.

Setting up the exercise for success

Send each group or department the list of risks. For each risk ask them to make an assessment on the impact on their group if the risk occurs.

Plot responses for each risk on a graph like the one below.

In this example you’d want to explore why Clinical Operations believe the impact on them will be high when others don’t think it will affect them significantly. That discussion will bring out the different views and increase the understanding of a risk from those different perspectives.

Running the exercise

As with other risk exercises, this one is best run by a knowledgeable but unbiased facilitator to mediate between groups.

Depending on how many risks are in your risk register, you may need to prioritize risks with high Likelihood/Impact/Detect-ability and a high degree of divergence in the perceptions from departments.

Present the graphs one at a time. For each graph the facilitator will point out any obvious differences and invite one of the groups to explain their assessment. Other groups will then be invited to explore and challenge the assessment. Repeat for each group. After each group has explained their assessment, identify any changes to planning assumptions and note any actions required.

Where there are large differences in opinion in the departmental impact of a risk occurring, it’s important to note that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. All opinions are valid precisely because each group looks at things differently, have differing pressures, objectives, and targets. The facilitation therefore may need to remind participants that the purpose of the exercise is to develop a shared narrative and understanding, and then adjust plans accordingly.


Making sure everyone can tell the same ‘story’ about a risk, and understand the impact it will have on others, can dramatically change an organization’s ability to assess and prepare for risks. Diversity of opinion is one of the most important factors in good risk management, and this exercise is designed to bring those out in structured way.