What is a Risk Matrix and What is it used for?


In today’s dynamic business environment, identifying and managing risks are paramount for the sustainability and growth of any organisation.


A risk matrix, an essential tool in risk management, serves as a visual aid to assess the likelihood and severity of various risks. 


This guide delves into the concept of a risk matrix, its importance, and how to effectively utilise it in your business strategy, including its role in risk-based thinking as outlined in ISO 9001:2015.

What is a risk matrix?

A risk matrix, also known as a risk assessment matrix or risk map, is a graphical tool that helps organisations identify and prioritise risks. It’s a grid that plots the likelihood of a risk event occurring against the potential impact or severity should it occur. 


This simple yet powerful tool aids in visualising risks and making informed decisions to mitigate them.


Key Components of a Risk Matrix


  • Likelihood or Probability: This axis measures how likely it is for a risk to occur.
  • Impact or Severity: This axis gauges the potential damage or effect of the risk event.
  • Risk Rating: The intersection of likelihood and impact, giving a visual representation of risk priority.
An example of a 3x3 risk matrix
Example of a 3x3 risk matrix

The Role of Risk-Based Thinking in Using a Risk Matrix

Risk-based thinking is a fundamental aspect of modern business strategy and a key requirement of the ISO 9001:2015 standard. It involves a proactive approach to identifying, analysing, and addressing risks. 


A risk matrix complements this approach by providing a structured and visual method of assessing risks, which is essential in both identifying potential challenges and uncovering opportunities. 


By integrating a risk matrix into your risk management processes, organisations can enhance decision-making, improve efficiency, and increase their resilience against uncertainties.

The Benefits of Using a Risk Matrix

Risk matrices are instrumental in prioritising risks and formulating appropriate strategies to address them.


However, their effectiveness greatly depends on how they’re used within an organisation. It’s imperative to conduct a thorough risk analysis and understand your organisation’s individual circumstances to accurately evaluate risk levels.


By optimising the use of risk matrices, organisations can bolster their risk management strategies, enhancing their capacity to anticipate, manage, and mitigate potential risks.

The cycle of risk management when using a risk matrix.

The diagram above illustrates the cycle of risk management when using a risk matrix. It’s a continuous process of identifying, evaluating, strategising, implementing, and reviewing, all of which contribute to a robust risk management framework.

Creating an Effective Risk Matrix

We can create a risk matrix using many methods. The most common way is using a software tool that auto-generates a risk matrix based on the inputs provided by the user.


To begin, we need to organise our risk matrix into two columns with rows.


Each row represents a risk, and each column represents a category of information about the risk.


The cells in the matrix contain scores for each category, which can be ‌numerical or descriptive. We can assign numerical scores based on how well an item matches its description (if something is ‘highly likely’, it would get a score of 5).

An example of a 5x5 Risk Matrix created in the Agility System

The scores are weighted so that certain categories are more important than others when deciding how to deal with risks.


For example, we might see the spillage of hazardous substances in the workplace as something that has both a ‘possible’ probability of happening and a ‘moderate’ level of consequence.


It’s at this point it’s important to define a risk rating key for your matrix. This key will allow your workforce to always follow the correct ‌protocol to mitigate the risk.

An example risk rating key that can be applied to a risk matrix
Risk rating key.

After creating and defining the risk matrix and its ratings, the organisation can now use it for any related environmental risks. It will also give the workforce clear guidance on how to mitigate these types of risks.


Note: If you’d like to learn about our risk control software and how it can apply to your business, our business analysts can explain everything we do and give you a personalised demo of our software.

The Importance of a Risk Matrix in Business Decision-Making

Informed Decision Making


The risk matrix provides a visual and easy-to-understand overview of all potential risks, enabling informed decision-making. It helps in identifying which risks require immediate attention and resources.


Resource Allocation


By highlighting the most significant risks, a risk matrix assists in efficient resource allocation, ensuring that time and money are invested in areas that need it the most.


Enhancing Communication


A risk matrix improves communication within the team and with stakeholders by providing a clear and common understanding of risks.


Compliance and Governance


For many industries, having a structured approach to risk management is a regulatory requirement—the risk matrix aids in meeting these compliance and governance standards.

Best Practices for Utilising a Risk Matrix

Regular Updates


Risk environments are dynamic; regularly update your risk matrix to reflect the current situation.




Tailor the risk matrix to fit the specific needs and context of your organisation or project.




Ensure the risk matrix is integrated into your overall risk management strategy and not used in isolation.


Stakeholder Involvement


Involve various stakeholders in the creation and updating of the risk matrix to gain diverse perspectives.


Training and Awareness


Educate your team on how to use and interpret the risk matrix effectively.

The next steps

A risk matrix is a crucial tool in the arsenal of any organisation looking to manage risks proactively.


By understanding its components, effectively creating and using a risk matrix, and integrating it into your broader risk management strategy, you can significantly enhance your decision-making process and safeguard your organisation’s future.


Incorporating these strategies will not only mitigate potential risks but also drive your organisation towards sustainable growth and success.


For those seeking to integrate risk management seamlessly into their business processes, the Agility System offers a comprehensive solution.


The risk management and control features allow users to embed risk assessment and mitigation strategies directly into their processes, ensuring a robust and resilient approach to risk management.


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Peter Shields
Peter is a Quality, Risk & Compliance expert with extensive experience working with process-based management systems in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence sectors since 1979.
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Peter Shields

Peter is a Quality, Risk & Compliance expert with extensive experience working with process-based management systems in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence sectors since 1979.

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