Fred Alldredge talks Risk

Posted on: April 17, 2015

If we are going to start a conversation about risk, it’s best to start with some fundamentals. One of the most often missed, but critical, understandings is that risk and its management is unique to every individual and situation. It is always best to begin with the realization that the relative danger of any undertaking is enormously modified by the education, training and preparation of the people involved.

If you or I tried to land a 747 tomorrow, we might as well clean out the minibar first because –baby, the odds ain’t lookin good. Of course given sufficient time and educational resources, we could increase those odds to nearly 100% and, with a little drilling and review from time to time, we could continually duplicate those results. Sounds obvious because people don’t let noobs fly jets – yet if you start to study accidents, you can see that those involved have often critically shorted one of these three categories. Risk is further modified by the very real, but less tangible, human traits such as intelligence, intuition, adaptability, etc. and finally there is tolerance, what a person is willing to put on the table, modified by individual goals, fears and beliefs. So if risk is so vastly different person to person, company to company – how do we begin to teach its management intelligent tolerance and mitigation? What commonalities do we trade on?

The simple answer is that we teach process. We trade on the fact that both the tangible and intangible components of risk can be pulled apart and sectioned out and defined. We identify each critical step then find and fill in the gaps in training and education necessary to give us a reasonable shot at success. This is where I introduce Keith, Chip and InterWest.

I met these guys almost a decade ago at the Ruby Mountain Heli-ski lodge in Northern Nevada and figured out pretty quickly that we had more in common than a love of skiing powder snow. They have become friends and mentors and they are the experts at this process.

In almost every job that I have held during my adult life, calculated risk has been a central component and theme. I have at one time or another guided both high altitude mountaineering and skiing out of helicopters, fought forest fire for the BLM and held an aviation management position in Antarctica. All of these jobs deal each day with weighing the odds of success against the potential dangers that are inherent in those environments. Through many great conversations, Keith, Chip and others have helped me understand the process of how to break down and effectively define and mitigate the hazards and then learn to communicate those risks. And now, finally, to teach this process so that others are able to do the same, each at their own level and pace. It is an ongoing process for me and everyday I try to learn to do it better.

A few weeks ago when I told my friends that I was going to be one of the guides on an attempt to climb Mt. Everest, we thought it would be a great platform to highlight the risk management systems and processes that we have found effective. The systems are virtually the same whether you are trying to grow a company, change jobs, learn a new skill or climb the world’s highest mountain. We thought perhaps that the climbing might have a little more curb appeal (As Keith would say) and that the adventure might change the way you look at the world. So if you think it sounds interesting, check in once in a while and I hope you find the subject as fascinating as we do.