Done all that hard work on risk assessment…it’s time to successfully communicate the results, but how?

Many organisations fail miserably when it comes to successfully communicating their risk assessment findings because they quickly get tangled in words, procedures and policies.

A simple but effective solution is to use a “Heat Map” to convey their findings.

What is a Heat Map?

Put simply, a heat map is a two-dimensional representation of data in which consequences and likelihood are represented by colours and can be designed from being simple (qualitative only: 3 x 3 matrix) to very complex (both qualitative and quantitative: 5 x 5 matrix).

Visually, the matrix (3 by 3 matrix) can be shown as follows:

The grid can be populated with numbers (as shown) and number pairs can be used to determine risk with the risk equation.

Of course, there is also the “Golden Rule for Risk Assessments” which comes into play when deciding on what numbers to chose etc. 

Organisations’ should avoid “copy and paste” and ensure that they select values and criteria that best fits their Organisation and avaialble resources.

What’s Involved?

With reference to the images shown above:

  • The horizontal axis shows the likelihood of a given risk occurring; and
  • The vertical axis shows the potential impact that the risk will have on the objective or goal not being achieved should it materialise.

The colours are risk areas (e.g., green coloured boxes are in the low area; yellow boxes are in the medium area; red boxes in the high area).

By plotting the risks on the heat map based upon the “Potential Impact” and “Likelihood” (i.e., The Risk Equation) of occurring, the Organisation can build a risk profile relative to their activities and operations.

What’s the purpose?

Having plotted the risks on a Heat Map, it’s much easier to show visually where risk potential exists.

It’s important to mention that risks are dynamic in nature and hence should be periodically reviewed to ensure relevance and assurance.

Heat Maps are a useful way to monitor risks either as part of periodic review process or management meetings regarding performance.

In Conclusion

Heat Maps are not just limited to risk and safety management applications. They can be used in many other aspects such as election results, user behaviour, website performance.

Used wisely, Heat Maps play a pivotal role in successfully communicating and managing the Organisation’s risk profile.

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