4 Risks of Attempting Risk-Free Change

As leaders, we all want to limit the risk in the hard decisions we make. Personally, whenever we are about to make a major change or launch some new initiative, I want our team to think through things which could go wrong. I want to know who is going to be upset with the change. We try to figure out some of the worse-case scenarios which could keep us from being successful. And, then we build into our plan some natural reactors to things we know could go wrong. A good portion of time is dedicated to risk management. I think it’s important.

But, I have seen some leaders who want to get to 100% risk elimination before they move forward with any change. And, if that’s your goal, I have a few thoughts to consider.

Here are 4 risks of attempting risk-free change

You’re risking how expensive it will be – It’s not cheap to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. You have to determine how much you’re putting into attempting to eliminate risk is being taken from actually implementing change – especially change which has direct impact on people. And, context matters here. Attempting to eliminate risk in equipment to perform surgery or in building airplanes is different than trying to eliminate risk in organizational planning.

You’re risking precious time while attempting to eliminate risk – Time is incredibly valuable in implementing change. If you do eliminate a genuine risk that may be time well spent. The time, however, spent researching all the scenarios and answering all questions may be time taken from actually making the change. And, again, if you’re change is attempting to make life better for the organization or others, the faster you get started the better.

You’re risking simply being impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience. I’ve seen pastors, for example, refuse to move forward with a project because they aren’t sure how groups of people might respond. But, you can ask and answer every question in people’s minds, but when change is actually implemented some people may still complain. All change invokes an emotion. And, sometimes people can’t discern the emotion until they experience the change.

You may risk being unrealistic– Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more probable than having no risk at all. I’m not encouraging any leader to ignore risk. That would he irresponsible. I’m just questioning whether or not it is even leadership if we could get to zero risk. Leadership by application involves risk.

As much as practical, address risk before it occurs. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those.

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may risk losing opportunity. While trying to eliminate risk the world and the best ideas it has to offer may pass you by.

In fact, eliminating risk doesn’t mesh with my understanding of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery – and risk. I’d much rather be an advocate of taking a risk than attempting to eliminate every risk out there.

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • […] Leadership, however, is about moving things forward into unknown territory. That always involves a risk at some […]

  • bryankr

    I have actually tried to get rid of all the risk. I really thought it was what I needed to do, and I truly thought i could! I, then got over my insecurities. I don't mean to be a smart aleck, but that is what it amounted to for me! I was absolutely overcome with the notion that if there were any risk, I was doing something wrong. I thought I needed to eliminate these risks in order to prove myself a good leader. I discovered I have no one to prove anything to! I sleep so much better!!

  • TJ Trent


    Eliminating risk would tie the leader’s hand. Leaders would cease to be innovative or catalysts for change.

    Besides a healthy amount if risk keeps life interesting, doesn’t it?


  • Scott Shaffer says:

    Our company is installing GPS tracking in all of our trucks next week. I took a break from the memo to read your blog. The risk of unhappy employees is not just perception; we are not "Big Brother", we do practice good business reasoning. I have researched GPS tracking for 3 years, Decided the risk is acceptable.

  • Kathryn Manning says:

    We gave up early on eliminating risk and just focus on identifying and managing problems as they pop up. What's the old saying? if you wait for perfect weather the crops never get planted? not sure why that came to mind, but just plant the corn and spray the bugs when they show up. love your blog.

  • @EricDingler says:

    Greatest risk I'm currently taking. Following what I believe is God's calling to increase my range of influence. As a Camp Director of a Christian camp and conference center, I get to speak, share and help people develop when they come to an event at camp. I am activity working to take my talents and messages "on the road" if you will.

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