Sector Risks

A Detailed Guide to War Gaming in Risk Management

In the realm of risk management, war gaming is a strategic planning method that allows organizations to anticipate potential threats and opportunities, rehearse their response to critical incidents, and develop more robust strategies. While IRM’s global Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) examinations and qualifications cover a lot of advanced risk management techniques like scenario planning and horizon scanning; this blog will provide a detailed guide to war gaming in risk management.

What is War Gaming?

War gaming, often used in military and political settings, is a role-playing technique where participants simulate decision-making situations. In risk management, this method involves simulating a potential risk event and exploring various outcomes based on different strategic decisions. The goal is to better understand these risks, mitigate their impact, and capitalize on any opportunities they present.

 Step-by-Step Guide to War Gaming

Step 1: Define Objectives and Scope

The first step in a war game exercise is to define its objectives and scope. What are the potential risks you aim to investigate, and what scenarios do you want to explore? The risks could range from cybersecurity breaches to operational failures, market disruptions, or regulatory changes. Define what success looks like for the exercise – it might be gaining new insights, identifying potential issues, or testing specific strategies.

Step 2: Assemble the Team

Once the objectives and scope are clear, assemble a team to participate in the war game. This should include individuals with diverse perspectives and a deep understanding of the business. Depending on the risk scenario, you may want to include representatives from different departments such as operations, IT, legal, HR, or communications.

Step 3: Develop Scenarios

Now, it’s time to develop detailed risk scenarios for the war game. These should be realistic, based on the risks you’ve identified in your risk assessment. Each scenario should provide enough detail for participants to understand the situation but leave room for unpredictability, mirroring real-world conditions.

Step 4: Conduct the War Game

During the war game, present the scenario to the team and allow them to react as they would in a real situation. Facilitate the discussion, ensuring everyone’s ideas are heard. Encourage participants to consider various strategies and their potential outcomes. Document the decisions made, the reasons behind them, and their results.

Step 5: Analyze the Results

After the war game, analyze the results. What strategies were successful? Where did participants struggle? What assumptions were challenged? This analysis should yield insights into the organization’s preparedness for the risk scenarios and provide guidance for improving risk mitigation strategies.

Step 6: Implement Learnings

The final step is to take the insights from the war game and use them to enhance your risk management approach. This might involve updating your risk assessment, refining your risk mitigation strategies, or conducting further training for your team.

Benefits of War Gaming

War gaming can bring significant benefits in risk management:

  1. Improved Preparedness: By simulating potential risk events, war gaming allows you to test your response strategies, uncovering gaps and areas for improvement.
  2. Enhanced Decision-Making: By providing a safe environment to explore different strategic decisions, war gaming can help enhance your team’s decision-making skills.
  3. Uncovered Insights: War gaming can provide valuable insights into potential risk events, revealing previously unrecognized threats or opportunities.
  4. Increased Engagement: War gaming can increase engagement in risk management, making it more interactive and dynamic.


War gaming is a powerful tool in risk management, offering a practical, engaging way to understand potential risks and test your response strategies. By following the steps outlined in this guide – defining objectives, assembling a team, developing scenarios, conducting the war game, analyzing results, and implementing learnings – you can enhance your organization’s preparedness for a range of risk events and improve your overall risk management approach.


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