Difference between Risk and Issue

Key difference: Risk is essentially the level of possibility that an action or activity will lead to lead to a loss or to an undesired outcome. The risk may even pay off and not lead to a loss, it may lead to a gain. An issue is something that has already happened. It is something that has to be dealt with. It is a problem that has occurred and must be fixed.

Risk is essentially the level of possibility that an action or activity will lead to lead to a loss or to an undesired outcome. The risk may even pay off and not lead to a loss, it may lead to a gain.

Dictionary.com defines risk as:

  • Exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance: It's not worth the risk.
  • The hazard or chance of loss.
  • The degree of probability of such loss.
  • The amount that the insurance company may lose.
  • A person or thing with reference to the hazard involved in insuring him, her, or it.
  • The type of loss, as life, fire, marine disaster, or earthquake, against which an insurance policy is drawn.

There are many difference kinds of risk. Wikipedia lists six different ways that risk can be defined:

  • A probability or threat of damage, injury, liability, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through preemptive action.
  • Finance: The probability that an actual return on an investment will be lower than the expected return.
  • Food industry: The possibility that due to a certain hazard in food there will be an negative effect to a certain magnitude.
  • Insurance: A situation where the probability of a variable (such as burning down of a building) is known but when a mode of occurrence or the actual value of the occurrence (whether the fire will occur at a particular property) is not.
  • Securities trading: The probability of a loss or drop in value.
  • Workplace: Product of the consequence and probability of a hazardous event or phenomenon.

An issue is something that has already happened. It is something that has to be dealt with. It is a problem that has occurred and must be fixed.

Dictionary.com defines issue as:

  • A point in question or a matter that is in dispute, as between contending parties in an action at law.
  • A point, matter, or dispute, the decision of which is of special or public importance: the political issues.
  • A point the decision of which determines a matter: The real issue in the strike was the right to bargain collectively.
  • A point at which a matter is ready for decision: to bring a case to an issue.
  • The ultimate result, event, or outcome of a proceeding, affair, etc.: the issue of a contest.

The main difference between a risk and an issue is that a risk is something that may lead to a negative outcome. Whereas, an issue is something that has already happened that must be addressed or corrected. Risk is a future event that may or may not have an undesired outcome, and may or may not lead to a delay of a project. However, an issue is a situation that had already had an impact, most commonly negative, and has likely delayed the project.

One can plan for the probability of risk and design scenarios to reduce the possibility of risk, so that the risk may not hamper the project. However, an issue is something that has already impacted the project and all one can do is deal with the consequences and try to limit the damage.

Image Courtesy: advancehe.com, rhizome.org

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