April 29, 2014


This article encapsulates the people and cultural aspect of risk management, the Cultural barriers to effective risk management and what mature organizations have done about it.
The ancient art form of Bharatnatyam talks about the navarasas and most dance recitals have a mix of one or more Navarasas. 
Below are some analogies and allusions to the Navarasas in relation to risk management:

  • Vīram (वीरं) Heroism – During the winning speech of the first ICC T20 World Cup final, the captain MS Dhoni described the dilemma he had to face when selecting the bowler of the last over. It was a do or die situation and one would have expected him to hand over the ball to the most experienced spinner. However he did the unexpected and took a risk by asking Jogendar Sharma to bowl. His bet paid off and the opponents were defeated.  The valiant captain had inspired his team and the bowler who used the opportunity to create a mark for himself.  This heroic risk taking will be celebrated in the records of T20 games.

  • Hāsyam (हास्यं) Comedy. It’s indeed amusing to hear the amount of excuses people give to escape from a candid discussion on challenges and risks of a project. When a meeting is set up, people try to avoid the same saying that they have a calendar clash, client visit is on, audit is happening. In extreme cases, people join calls and later disconnecting abruptly to later clarify that the signal dropped or that their mobile phones ran out of charge
  • Raudram (रौद्रं) Fury – This is the typical reaction of a project sponsor or client who comes to know that the project has gone awry. They are furious to know that the cost, quality or timeline will not be met and express their feelings either verbally or in writing. This situation also turns comical when the wrong person is blamed for the trouble or some unsuspecting person is caught in the cross-fire.

  • Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं) Compassion – When you are in an extremely risky and intense project, the project manager and the senior leaders need to exhibit this emotion. Typically such projects are marked by long working hours, very less time for one self and a skewed work-life balance. Sensing the intense effort put in by the teams, senior leaders need to behave humanely and exhibit compassion. This could either be in the form of relaxing certain guidelines so that work-life balance is restored and there is a sense of win-win for employees and employers.

  • Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं) Disgust. Aversion is the way society and organizations should look at people who unnecessarily put others’ lives and careers at risk to safeguard or further their own interests. The financial and political scams depict some people artfully deceive the bells and whistles put in place.

  • Bhayānakam (भयानकं) Horror, Terror – When risks are not identified or managed appropriately, the nature of the outcome is disastrous. Take the example of Fukushima Nuclear reactor that was destroyed by the tsunami or the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The risks were present and could have been forecast if the modelling and honesty were in right measure. The horror of the aftermath is difficult to describe or overcome.

  • Śṛngāram (शृङ्गारं) Beauty – There is immense beauty in the innovative ways to overcome challenges and constraints. It is some of these innovative risk mitigation steps in troubled projects that help organizations in pushing the envelope. Beauty also lies in the character of organizations and people who share praise for the successful outcomes of risky projects with their team and contributors.

  • Adbhutam (अद्भुतं) Wonder – When the crisis is over and the risk has been overcome, the team is amazed at their own capability to have pushed themselves and their organizations to achieve the results. When at first they had encountered the problem, they would probably have thought that the challenges were in surmountable.