ORM Decision Matrix

What is it?

An ORM decision matrix is used as part of ORM, Operational Risk Management. This process is used by military personnel to avoid unnecessary risk during operations.

The aim is to increase mission effectiveness with minimal loss or damage to personnel or materials. It is a rational process for making decisions about activities so as to manage inherent risk.

There is no intention to eliminate risk but rather to make decisions that manage risk, reduce mishaps and improve the cost-benefit ratio.

In order to use an ORM decision matrix the situation needs to be assessed and some information gathered.

Step 1

The first step is to identify the hazards, a hazard being any condition that could cause loss. Loss being either injury to humans or damage to equipment.

Step 2

Step two is to assess those hazards. What is the probability of a hazard occurring and the potential impact on the mission/activity?

At this stage the ORM decision matrix is used, although it may not strictly be necessary.

ORM Decision Matrix
I is most severe, IV least severe. A is high probability, D low.
1 is critical risk, 2 serious, 3 moderate, 4 minor and 5 negligible.

Each hazard is graded according to severity and probability and scored for risk.

The ORM decision matrix is a graphical representation of the level of risk associated with each hazard. It indicates clearly which is the highest risk and therefore which one needs to be dealt with first in step three.

Step 3

Step three is to make risk decisions. Controls are selected for each risk so that the risk is minimized while still allowing the mission to be accomplished. With all controls in place, a decision is made as to whether the residual risk is acceptable. If the benefits outweigh the cost, the next step is taken.


Step 4

Step four is where the controls are implemented. It is important they are integrated with the overall plan, and everyone concerned is aware and takes responsibility. The ORM decision matrix can be useful in communicating the relevant information.

Step 5

Step five is supervision and review. Supervising to make sure the controls are correctly implemented, and later review of whether or not the benefit was actually worth the cost.


How and when it's used

The ORM process can be done on three levels. An in-depth process involves a very thorough risk assessment and is done when time, personnel and resources are available. It is done in the long-term planning of complex operations, introducing new equipment, development of training programs and so on. By definition, there is time to use an ORM decision matrix once or twice!

The deliberate process is also a complete run through the five steps. It is usually done in groups to allow for brainstorming and the pooling of experience. It is used for planning of common operations, disaster response planning and reviewing standard operating or training procedures.

The time-critical level is done when time is a premium. During crisis response situations, for example, some steps may be skipped and there simply may not be the time to formally use an ORM decision matrix.



Although the ORM process and the ORM decision matrix is a rational decision model, it is usually expected that frequent use will allow the ORM to become an automatic or intuitive part of decision making! It is also understood that the experience, judgment and intuition of the leader in using ORM is critical.

In fact, more and more military units worldwide are beginning to understand the importance of intuition in decision making...

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