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Making risk management in a changing world

 

The world is changing, as do organizations, technologies, minds… These changes can occur slowly, rapidly and sometimes radically as follows:

  • slow transformations that are often imperceptible (wear phenomenon, slow evolution of working process, climate change...),
  • rapid changes requiring almost immediate response capacity and adaptation skills (information and communication technologies, health crisis, geopolitics…),
  • radical  switches in existing technologies and emergence of new ones coming into play, of new regulation and even of threats or attacks that have an impact on environment, health and human beings.

Systems and their environments are steadily evolving and these evolutions, often not easily predictable, carry with them a lot of uncertainties.

Even though these transformations may offer true opportunities, they may also have some consequences on the way risk management is performed. Indeed, because of these transformations, having a vison of risk at one point in time is no more enough to make safe risk management. Instead, we should foresee the possible evolutions of technologies taking into account their environment, the culture and the organization around them that can lead to transformations and even yield new hazards or new opportunities.

These modifications have an impact on the whole process of risks analysis: identification, evaluation, quantification and ranking, including the necessary updates required throughout the life cycle. In fact, it is the systemic representation of risk that is to be reconsidered. This includes both the object and its context. For instance, the context in which risk management actions are taken can change, so that the expected efficiency of the actions would be modified as well. These changes can be:

  • evolutions of operator motivations or aptitudes resulting in a change in their behaviour,
  • new organizational requirements resulting in a change in the reaction time or the availability of information required to achieve the actions,
  • technical requirements related to ageing, obsolescence, new technologies, negatively affecting reliability and the way industrial assets are managed,
  • economical requirements possibly affecting security margins,
  • effects of evolutions related to market and societal environment,
  • sociological or geopolitical upheavals.

While these changes may yield new types of risks, they may also modify the criticality of existing ones, through evolution of technical knowledge, increase of experience, emergence of new behaviours, organization, stronger regulation, climate change… Nevertheless, the initial criticality has an effect on an important decision making chain which sometimes disregards working hypothesis…

Evolutions may have a negative impact on risk acceptability, mainly because of new communication and information media and social networks, which tend to change the way risks are perceived or sensed as these media and networks are able to produce or amplify resonance effects.

Whatever the changes or transformation modes are, the issue is to be able to answer few important questions: how do we understand risks? How do we prevent and treat them? Do the required actions be the same whatever the type of change? How does one ensure consistency in the risk management process throughout the life cycle of socio-technical systems knowing that the context may also change or evolve? Will we be able to update dependability and risk analysis methodologies when tools and technologies implementing them come to be out of date? When and how shall we be able to talk about “resilience to changes”?

The 20th Lambda Mu symposium will provide the opportunity to show how our knowledge and skills in risk management and dependability deal with these issues through methodological approaches, industrial applications, tools, and the solutions that emerge according to each activity field.

 

Emmanuel LARDEUX, Air Liquide

Chairman of programme committee