Understanding the risk assessment matrix: What it is and why it matters in innovation14 min read

risk assessment matrix

People say that addressing risks brings potential rewards. While in a sense, that is true, this does not imply that there is no need for businesses to conduct proper risk management.

There will always be unforeseen circumstances and company risks, but this may lead to specific damages and loss if left unmitigated. That is the reason why it is important to define, assess, and analyze risks before they materialize.

Today, there is a growing demand for businesses to construct risk assessment plans that will assist them in developing risk mitigation methods for smooth project completion.

This is where understanding the risk assessment matrix could help, including what it is and why it matters in innovation.

What is a risk assessment matrix?

A risk matrix is also known as a probability matrix or an impact matrix.

This is a useful tool for risk assessment since it focuses on the likelihood of probable hazards. A risk assessment matrix can guide you in rapidly calculating project risk.

innovation risk matrix

It accomplishes this by spotting possible problems and weighing the potential consequences. This makes it simple to recognize and prioritize issues.

Furthermore, because efforts would be necessary to keep a project on schedule, a risk matrix is critical in vividly exhibiting the risks connected with an innovation venture, allowing firms to develop a mitigation strategy and risk response measures.

It significantly minimizes the probability of risks in order to boost project outcomes.

How does the risk assessment matrix work?

The risk matrix is built around two complementary elements:

  1. The possibility of the risk taking place
  2. The possible impact of the risk occurrence on the business

In other words, it is a tool that allows you to visualize the likelihood vs. severity of prospective danger.

Risks are classified as high, moderate, or low based on their likelihood and severity.

In essence, it provides a realistic picture of all the hazards that your company confronts, allowing you to analyze their effect and develop a comprehensive risk management plan.

Why is the risk assessment matrix important?

The risk matrix is important for innovation for three primary reasons:

1. Identifying risks and possible impacts

Risks may exist and reoccur, like audit, security, and regulatory experts are aware.

The risk assessment matrix allows you to identify certain categories of risk, as well as their probability and severity, which enables you to keep a real-time perspective of the dynamic risk landscape.

Even if some risks are unpredictable, businesses may uncover significant parts of exposure by upgrading their enterprise risk management procedures.

Companies can preserve long-term sustainability in an extremely changing and intricate risk environment by searching and monitoring for advanced caution indicators or trigger occurrences that suggest something is wrong.

Strategic risk assessment tools, such as the risk matrix, also help businesses identify risk trends — risks that are expected to repeat and hence necessitate a year-over-year mitigation approach.

2. Prioritizing risks based on the severity

No matter what industry you belong to, risks come in varying degrees and result in diverse gravities of consequences. A risk matrix enables you to define the most serious risks that your business will encounter.

Obtaining a full understanding of the modern risk landscape is essential for averting potential losses.

All organizations must accept a certain amount of risk in order to thrive, but calibrated threats based on a comprehensive risk assessment can benefit businesses in managing risks in a way that helps them accomplish their goals.

At some point, you may think of dedicating resources to every potential business hazard.

However, some technical concerns must be prioritized above others, such as substantial harm in the brand image due to privacy breaches or an exorbitant spike in operating expenditures because of catastrophic disasters.

3. Managing risks strategically

As mentioned a  while back, risks carry different weights and consequences.  The risk assessment matrix helps professionals design a tailored approach for addressing excessive threat occurrences by addressing the most immediate issues.

Concentrating your efforts and resources on the greatest hazards will improve your entire business strategy because these risks have the largest influence which may then lead to the most deficits.

A momentary delay in the project process, for instance, would have little impact from a project management standpoint if adequate leeway was designed from the early stage of project development.

A financial concern that considerably raises the cost of the project, on the other hand, would have a significant effect and would necessitate a specific management framework.

In the end, risks are inevitable. But careful planning and preparation for facing risks and potential issues will enhance the success of a project. Planning for risks and potential threats becomes much simpler with the aid of the risk matrix.

How to make a risk assessment matrix

Here’s how you make a risk assessment matrix:

1. Define the risks that come with the project

The first step in using risk management is to define and identify the risks connected with your innovation project. The intricate details of your innovation initiative should indicate a prompt and preemptive attempt to reduce loss and other forms of issues.

Nail down all the potential challenges and uncertainties that you can and do this with your team to acquire a variety of viewpoints.

Come up with all the possible situations along with the project team to recognize risky situations and other uncertain business scenarios that can put your projects and other innovation programs in trouble.

You can also opt to create guidelines, procedures, and even protocols based on earlier project experiences for risk detection and management. Focus on primarily detecting possible hazards connected with every new project.

2. Analyze the hazards and categorize them

Due to the scale and diversity of business risks increasing, it is critical that you establish a complete understanding of the whole risk environment.

After identifying all the risks that come with a specific project, discuss with relevant parties and assess all the potential issues that you have uncovered on the first step. Consider which of the following categories the risks on your list fit under.

  • Operational. The potential of losses generated by erroneous or defective procedures, rules, technologies, or developments that impair corporate activities is referred to as operational risks. Human missteps, illegal operations such as embezzlement, theft, and other physical and structural occurrences are all cases of variables that can contribute to operational risk happening.
  • Financial. The risk of losing funds and other financial resources on a business endeavor is referred to as financial risk. Credit risk, liquidity risk, and operational risk are some of the most prevalent and diverse financial hazards. Financial risk is a sort of hazard that can eventually lead to a loss of capital for those who are exposed to it.
  • External. External risks are frequently economic occurrences that happen beyond the company setting. External activities that create external risks cannot be regulated or foreseen with great accuracy. However, the company’s response to the external threats could be.
  • Strategic. Strategic risk refers to the threats that a business may encounter as an outcome of poor economic choices. Strategic risk is frequently a crucial aspect in establishing a firm’s value, especially if the organization sees a rapid fall in a brief period.

Start by concentrating on the greatest hazards connected with company projects and activities. Narrow your attention to particular activities inside those areas including supplier leadership.

You will need to assess the potential impacts posed by the risks that threaten the company to devise methods that could mitigate its effects. Discuss with the organization’s stakeholders and present them with genuine information analysis.

It’s critical to extensively study every single component linked with these problems, as well as their likelihood of recurrence, in order to devise a plan that will be effective in dealing with them.

Ultimately, every project leader should use a tailored, distinctive method for analyzing risks, which is why every risk element is investigated to establish a risk-resolution plan.

3. Evaluate and measure the risks’ impacts

In this step, you must study and assess the effects of the hazards that you discovered in the previous two stages of creating the risk assessment model. Then, you must decide if the risk effect is too minor or critical for your project.

To find this out, evaluate and measure the risks’ impacts using the two primary matrices in the risk assessment matrix — severity and likelihood.


The severity of risk relates to the amount of harm or damage that it may produce, which is typically rated using a four-point scale like the one below.

  • 4 – Fatal. Working environments and scenarios can lead to errors and possible difficulties that result in severe situations such as death or significant network destruction and commercial losses. Rating the risk four means it is necessary to immediately halt the business’s innovation project.
  • 3 – Severe. Risks that are given a three in the evaluation process have the potential to cause serious accidents, diseases, and substantial network damage, necessitating rapid remedial action.
  • 2 – Inconsequential. Risks with a rating of two can be countered or regulated without causing severe injury, disease, or substantial system damage.
  • 1- Negligible. Finally, risks that are rated one result in zero or very minimal sickness, injury, or overall impairment, to the point of being negligible.


Probability indicates the possibility of a risk happening. This point of the matrix is frequently graded on a five-point scale:

  • 5 – Recurrent. The risk is expected to occur frequently over the project’s existence.
  • 4 – Likely. The risk will take place multiple times over the project’s lifetime.
  • 3 – Occasional.  The risk is only likely to occur at some point throughout the project’s existence.
  • 2- Seldom. The risk is unlikely to happen. But it can possibly occur in the project’s duration.
  • 1 – Unlikely.  The risk is so improbable, that it is presumed that it might not occur at all.

Evaluating and measuring the risks’ impacts would aid in the reduction of risks and the establishment of a defined path for completing the project as planned. This way, every possible risk that comes with a project is thoroughly studied and prepared for by the company.

4. Compare and prioritize

Now, it’s time to compare and prioritize risks based on the information you’ve gathered in the previous steps.

You can use a predefined scale. In doing so, multiply the severity and probability scores that you’ve done in the fourth step.

Usually, the ratings that the scale comes with depends on the organization, but generally, you can label it with the bracket as follows:

  • Extreme. Risks that scored ten and above (n≥10)
  • Elevated. Risks that fell within eight and nine (8-9)
  • Moderate. Risks that had an overall rating of four to six (4-6)
  • Mild. Risks that scored one to three (1-3)

5. Insert the data into the matrix

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to plot all of this information into the matrix. You can also refer to the next section of this article to learn more.

How to use the risk assessment matrix

Using the matrix is pretty simple. You only have to remember two things — color and placement.

1. Color

Of course, you can play around with the colors you like as long as they look cohesive with the fonts you use.

But most risk assessment matrices use four distinct colors – red, yellow, yellow-green, and dark green.

  • Red: Extreme risks
  • Yellow: Elevated risks
  • Yellow-green: Moderate risks
  • Dark green: Mild risks

2. Placement

The risk assessment matrix places probability on the y-axis, while the severity of risks is placed on the x-axis. These two elements were created to depict the true nature of risks present in projects.

Moreover, the probability is represented graphically and can be given as a percentage, whereas the severity is indicated in terms of likely impact.

Meanwhile, risks are put in suitable matrix slots known as “cells,” and their role is to display the likelihood of the risk outcome.

Manage risks effectively

Risks are inevitable, but it’s not something you can’t handle. Planning out mitigation strategies has always proven beneficial in case of unexpected events.

Contingency plans will always equip your team better, so any risk mitigation activity should be well-defined, specific, and measurable.

Moreover, it is vital to understand that a risk matrix is only a tool, not a complete solution to your needs.

The data found in the risk matrix may give a compelling approach to show the company’s risk exposure and the amount of work required to mitigate it.

However, it will always come down to the steps that you decide to do after reviewing the matrix’s output. Utilize the information you’ve gathered and brainstorm with your team on how to manage your project risks effectively.

Learn the secrets of developing an innovative organization today. Download our innovation ebook and discover what it takes to turn your organization into an effective innovation engine.

Published On: March 22nd, 2022Categories: Innovation management

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