Strategic Risk Management
(Slywotzky Drzik)

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Systematically trying to anticipate and manage external events and trends of strategic significance. Explanation of Strategic Risk Management of Slywotzky and Drzik. ('05)


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What is Strategic Risk Management? Description

Although Adrian J. Slywotzky and John Drzik of Mercer did not conceive the terminology Strategic Risk Management (SRM), they deserve credit for their excellent description of it in an article in the Harvard Business Review of April 2005. SRM is a technique that can be used for devising and deploying a systematic approach for managing strategic risk, the array of external events and trends that can devastate a company's growth trajectory and shareholder value.

The authors distinguish 7 Classes of Strategic Risk, with underlying subcategories. (some typical countermeasures in italic):

  1. Industry
    • Margin Squeeze - shift the compete / collaboration ratio
    • Rising R&D / capital expenditure costs
    • Overcapacity
    • Commoditization
    • Deregulation
    • Increased power among suppliers
    • Extreme business-cycle volatility
  2. Technology
    • Shift in technology - double bet
    • Patent expiration
    • Process becomes obsolete
  3. Brand
    • Erosion - redefine the scope of brand investment, reallocate your brand investment
    • Collapse
  4. Competitor
    • Emerging global rivals
    • Gradual market-share gainer
    • One-of-a-kind competitor - create a new, non overlapping business design
  5. Customer
    • Customer priority shift - create and analyze proprietary information, conduct quick and cheap market experiments
    • Increasing customer power
    • Over-reliance on a few customers
  6. Project - smart sequencing, developing excess options, employing the stepping-stone method
    • R&D failure
    • IT failure
    • Business development failure
    • Merger or acquisition failure
  7. Stagnation
    • Flat or declining volume - generate "demand innovation"
    • Volume up, price down
    • Weak pipeline

Note: Certain financial-, operational-, and hazardous risks can potentially also be of strategic significance.

Origin of Strategic Risk Management. History

The first notion we could find of the term "Strategic Risk Management" is in a paper called "A framework for integrated risk management in international business", By: Miller, Kent D., Journal of International Business Studies, 00472506, 1992, Vol. 23, Issue 2.

Miller describes five "generic" responses to strategic environmental uncertainties, being avoidance, control, cooperation, imitation, and flexibility:

  1. Uncertainty avoidance occurs when management considers the risk associated with operating in a given product or geographic market to be unacceptable. For a firm already active in a highly uncertain market, uncertainty avoidance involves exiting, through divesting the specialized assets committed to serving the market. For firms not yet participating in a market, uncertainty avoidance implies postponement of market entry until the industry uncertainties decrease to acceptable levels.
  2. Firms may seek to control important environmental contingencies to reduce uncertainties. Managers are here predisposed to trying to control uncertain variables rather than passively treat the uncertainties as constraints within which they must operate. Examples of control strategies include:
    • political activities (e.g., lobbying for or against laws, regulations, or trade restraints),
    • gaining market power, and
    • undertaking strategic moves that threaten competitors into more predictable (and advantageous) behavior patterns.
  3. Cooperative responses are different from control responses, because they involve multilateral agreements, rather than unilateral control, as the means for achieving uncertainty reduction. Uncertainty management through coordination is resulting in increased behavioral interdependence and in a reduction in the autonomy of the coordinating organizations. Cooperative strategies for reducing uncertainty include:
    • long-term contractual agreements with suppliers or buyers,
    • voluntary restraint of competition,
    • alliances or joint ventures,
    • franchising agreements,
    • technology licensing agreements, and
    • participation in consortia.
  4. Firms may resort to imitation of rival organizations' strategies to cope with uncertainty. This behavior can result in coordination among industry rivals. But the basis of this coordination is clearly distinct from that under control or cooperation strategies. In this case, no direct control or cooperative mechanism is used. Rather, an industry leader is able to predict the response of rivals because their responses are merely lagged imitations of its own strategic moves. Imitation strategies ("follow-the-leader-behavior") involve pricing and product strategies that follow those of an industry leader.
    Imitation of product and process technologies may be a viable low-cost strategy in some industries [Mansfield, Schwartz & Wagner 1981]. But uncertainty about the underlying technology of competing firms may preclude such a strategy [Lippman & Rumelt 1982].
  5. A fifth general category of strategic responses to environmental uncertainties involves managerial moves to increase organizational flexibility. Unlike control and cooperation strategies which attempt to increase the predictability of important environmental contingencies, flexibility responses increase internal responsiveness. The predictability of external factors is left unchanged. The most widely cited example of flexibility in the strategy literature is product or geographic market diversification. Diversification reduces company risk through involvement in various product lines and/or geographic markets with returns that are less than perfectly correlated.

Usage of Strategic Risk Management. Applications

Steps in the Strategic Risk Management Process

  1. Identify and assess risks (severity, probability, timing, likelihood over time).
  2. Map risks (create a strategic risk map).
  3. Quantify risks (in a common measurement currency - i.e. economic capital at risk, market value at risk).
  4. Identify potential positive consequences of risks (if company turns the risk into an opportunity).
  5. Develop risk mitigation action plans (by risk teams).
  6. Adjust capital decisions (capital allocation and capital structure).

Strengths of Strategic Risk Management. Benefits

  • Preparation for a major risk enables mitigation of that risk and makes sense to protect company stability.
  • If you prepare better for risks than your competitors, who simply manage risks in the "old" way, you have a source of competitive advantage.
  • Tool for thinking systematically about the future and identifying opportunities.
  • You can turn strategic threats into growth opportunities. Moving from the defense into the offense.
  • Probably the benefits of SRM outweigh those of other, less strategic forms of managing risk.
  • Avoiding insolvency risks or earnings volatility.
  • If you can reduce your GAAP/IAS volatility, this may mean you will have a better standing in the analyst community.
  • You can better utilize capital and reduce its costs.
  • Organize systems and processes that increase the Risk-Adjusted Return on Capital of the firm.
  • Protect corporate reputation.
  • Helps companies to fend off additional regulatory and legislative assaults on how they run their businesses.
  • Helps corporate executives to defend themselves against legal lawsuits of the sort that have been filed against former Enron, Tyco and WorldCom executives.

Limitations of Strategic Risk Management. Disadvantages

  • Strategic risks are just one of four categories of risks (Others are: financial-, hazard, and operational risk).
  • Certain risks may occur and cause irreparable damage despite anticipation and preparation ("Acts of God").
  • No company can anticipate all risk events.
  • SRM is not a box-checking exercise: there are substantial costs and efforts involved to SRM.
  • A major potential issue in accomplishing progress with regards to SRM is that in light of Sarbanes-Oxley and other post-Enron developments, companies may likely view SRM as simply another regulation being imposed on them rather than new "ground rules" that, if followed enthusiastically, have the potential to provide global competitive advantage and enhance shareholder value.

Assumptions of Strategic Risk Management. Conditions

  • It is possible to prepare for major future risks.
  • Preparing is useful.
  • It is possible to turn risks into opportunities.

Strategic Risk Management Forum
  An 8th Class of Strategic Risk?
I would like to suggest "People" (human resources) as another class of strategic risk (management). People are vital:
- Working towards the common goal
- Identifying the right skills, experience and knowledge (right mix and match)
- Un...
  Strategic Risk Identification and Mitigation in Banking
Dear all, how to mitigate and identify strategic risk that occurs in banking industry? Thank you very much....
  How to Manage Unavoidable Risk
Truly unavoidable risk can be managed only in a sense, the risk themselves are unavoidable. Therefore to manage them you mitigate the effects or potential effects, not the risk themselves. Contingency planning allows you accomplish just this....
  ISO 31000 on Risk Management
The ISO have introduced a standard, ISO 31000 on risk management. Excellent, especially with the accompanying Guide 73 which is the risk management vocabulary that standardises many definitions, terms and concepts related to risk....
  Risk Management for Beginners
How to introduce risk management for those who are not aware of derivative markets (novice)? The reason for asking this question is that beginners find it difficult to understand hedging process & formulas & assumptions. ...
  Enterprise Risk Management versus Strategic Risk Management
These days the importance of managing all risks together has been recognized by organizations. Any risk management process in a firm must include interactions between all risks which mainly are hazard risks, financial risks, operational risks and str...
  Involve SRM when making Strategic Decisions
Many companies do not consider the strategic risk involved when making strategic decisions. It thus becomes an issue when a strategic risk arises....
  SRM for Central Banks?
How can SRM be applied to central banks in southern africa?...
  Strategic Risk Management in Agri Business
Can any body explain how SRM can be used in agribusiness sector i.e. how to mitigate the risk?...
  Strategies for Investment Risk Mitigation
What are strategies for risk mitigation?...
  Opportunism in Risk Management
How many times have we come across situations where middle management is deeply involved in risk avoidance but people on the Corporate Board have not adopted Risk Management as a policy? In one case where the breakdown of service led to deaths of two...
  Go find Risks... Embracing Risks
Go find risks... don't be afraid of risks...
Without risks there is no profit. So get a brave heart and navigate....
  How to manage Unavoidable Risks?
How can the impact of unavoidable risks be managed?...
  SRM Experiences and Results
The article deeply describes the academic values of the term Strategic Risk Management. Who can share some experiences and results on the managerial application of SRM in the real world of business and management?...
  Strategic Expenditures (StratEx)
A useful recommendation by Robert Kaplan and David Norton is to create a new expenditure category to protect strategic investment projects and assets from slash-and-burn cost cutting exercises during the economic downturn: "Strategic Expenditures...

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Strategic Risk Management Education & Events

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Best Practices - Strategic Risk Management Premium
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  Current Economic Conditions and Strategic Risk Management
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Does this come under uncertainties clause? How can we include risk solutions to prevent this situation from happening again?...

Expert Tips - Strategic Risk Management Premium

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The Levels of Risk

The following hierarchy describes risks types from global down to project level:
1. World system risks: political conditions, war, trade r...
Usage (application): Risk Hierarchy

E&Y Risk Radar

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Pitfalls of Traditional Risk Analysis

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Critical Success Factors of RM

In E&Y's 2009 Risk Management Survey executives of large organizations highlighted 9 key factors for successful risk management in a firm. Here...
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Strategic versus Financial Risk Management

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How to Link Risk Management and Strategy?

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Usage (application): Strategic Risk Management, Best Practices

Align Strategy and Risk Management

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Taking Risk Management from Control and Compliance into a Competitive Advantage

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Why Society is More Risky than Before

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Align Your Risk Management Strategy with Investors' View on Risk

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Critical Components of Risk Management Platform

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Resources - Strategic Risk Management Premium

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Usage (application): Risk Management Steps, Strategic Risk Management, Process of Risk Management

Steps in Strategic Risk Management Process

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Example Risk Register

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Usage (application): Initial Understanding of Risk Management, Risk Management Introduction

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Strategic Risk


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Strategic Risk


Strategic Risks


Strategic Risk


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Strategic Risks

Compare with Slywotzky's and Drzik's Strategic Risk Management: Scenario Planning  |  RAROC  |  Game Theory  |  Plausibility Theory  |  PEST Analysis  |  Crisis Management  |  Real Options  |  CAPM  |  Turnaround Management

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