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04 June 2024 ·

Navigating 3 dilemmas risk managers face - steer clear of conflict!



In the intricate world of risk management, professionals often stand at the intersection of organizational objectives and project team expectations. This article delves into common dilemmas faced by risk managers, offering insights into these challenges and presenting practical strategies to navigate them effectively. By focusing on a positive and enabling role, it highlights how risk managers can manage conflicts without getting into disputes and confrontations.

Organizational Priorities versus Project Team Needs

Risk managers frequently confront the challenge of aligning organizational risk priorities with the needs of project teams. While identifying significant project risks aligns with broader organizational objectives, project teams may view risk management interventions as hindrances to their progress. This forces risk managers to strike a delicate balance between mitigating organizational risks and accommodating project team demands to maintain positive relationships.

Consider the scenario of a risk manager identifying potential budget overruns due to unforeseen geological challenges in a large infrastructure project. Addressing these risks required revising timelines and allocating additional resources, which project teams opposed in their quest to meet deadlines. By prioritizing organizational risk management, the risk manager faced resistance and strained relationships with project leaders.

To tackle this, risk managers should engage with project teams to understand the underlying causes of cost overruns, implications of non-performance, the significance of the client, and possible ways to mitigate the impact of these overruns. Such questions enable the risk manager to proactively communicate the rationale behind risk management decisions, emphasizing the long-term benefits of risk mitigation. This alignment of organizational interests with project objectives fosters understanding and cooperation, transforming potential conflicts into collaborative problem-solving efforts.

Compliance versus Innovation

Another significant dilemma is balancing compliance with regulatory standards and fostering innovation within project teams. While risk managers must ensure compliance to mitigate legal and reputational risks, stringent controls may stifle creativity and innovation.

For example, in a technology startup, strict data protection measures enforced by the risk manager to comply with privacy regulations led to project delays. Developers struggled to navigate compliance requirements while innovating new features. To harmonize compliance with innovation, risk managers should work closely with project teams to find compliant solutions that also encourage creativity. By promoting a culture of risk-aware innovation and providing guidance on regulatory boundaries, risk managers can mitigate risks without hampering project progress.

Risk managers can further support innovation by establishing flexible frameworks that allow for creative solutions within regulatory confines. This approach ensures that compliance does not become a barrier but rather a foundation for responsible innovation, enabling project teams to thrive while safeguarding the organization’s interests.

Transparency versus Confidentiality

Risk managers often struggle to balance transparency with maintaining confidentiality. While disclosing sensitive risk information can build stakeholder trust, it may also breach confidentiality agreements and internal security protocols.

For instance, when a risk manager uncovered potential conflicts of interest within project procurement processes, confidentiality agreements created ethical dilemmas, challenging professional integrity. Navigating this dilemma requires a nuanced approach where the risk manager carefully weighs transparency against confidentiality, adhering to ethical standards and legal obligations while ensuring stakeholders are adequately informed within the confines of confidentiality agreements.

Establishing clear protocols for handling sensitive information and involving stakeholders early in risk communication can facilitate transparency while

preserving confidentiality. Utilizing anonymized data and aggregated risk reporting can also enhance transparency without compromising confidentiality. This balanced approach ensures that risk managers uphold ethical standards while maintaining the trust and confidence of all stakeholders.

The Big Picture

In conclusion, addressing the dilemmas faced by risk managers demands a balanced approach that integrates organizational priorities with project team expectations. Risk managers should be seen as integrators who question the status quo and ask tough questions, not to obstruct but to facilitate swift business progress while ensuring risks are managed effectively.

By fostering transparent communication, promoting risk-aware innovation, and upholding ethical standards, risk managers can balance conflicting demands and enhance overall project resilience. This strategic integration enables risk managers to adeptly navigate complex scenarios, ensuring alignment between organizational goals and project objectives while fostering a culture of collaboration and trust within the project environment.

Risk managers, through their integrative role, can thus be pivotal in steering organizations towards successful, innovative, and compliant project execution, maintaining a delicate balance between challenging the status quo and facilitating progress. By playing a positive and enabling role, risk managers can turn potential conflicts into opportunities for growth and collaboration, ultimately contributing to the sustained success of their organizations.


Mohit Khullar is an Executive Director with Grant Thornton Bharat LLP with more than two decades of rich experience in areas of risk management, dispute resolution, commercial management, growth and strategy.

Grant Thornton Bharat is a founding member firm of the Grant Thornton International network and India’s pre-eminent consulting firm. With 10,000+ people across 18 offices in India, and access to a global network of 73,000+ people in 150+ markets, Grant Thornton Bharat is helping shape Vibrant Bharat. “Grant Thornton” refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. GTIL refers to Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). Grant Thornton Bharat LLP is a member firm of GTIL. GTIL and each member firm of GTIL is a separate legal entity. GTIL does not deliver services in its own name or at all.

Mohit Khullar
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