De-risking and de-scaling

The other day I heard a discussion on the radio (BBC Radio 4) in which the words de-risk and de-scale, cropped up. They caught my attention because I hadn’t come across them before.

The context was the UK Sports Minister talking about the London Olympics, and he said, “As the project moves on it de-risks and de-scales.” I took this to mean that the size and risks involved in the project are reduced as it proceeds. I’m not sure if the Minister made them up on the spot, or if he’d heard them or read them somewhere.

De-risk gets 310 results in Google, and derisk gets only 29. De-scale and descale get 5 and 6 results respectively. So it seems these words aren’t all that common. Have you heard them before?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

7 Responses to De-risking and de-scaling

  1. dreaminjosh says:

    I’ve never heard them before, but from reading this blog it seems that there are a lot of words that pop up in UK media that are even unfamiliar to native speakers. I don’t know if this happens as much in the USA, but then again maybe I just don’t pay enough attention.

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Never heard either of those here in the northwest US, but they sound like perfectly plausible corporate-speak to me.

  3. Yenlit says:

    I agree with PetrĂ©a that both words in that context sound like ‘proactive’, ‘bouncebackability’ corporate management jargon. I only know ‘descale’ in the removing limescale from kettles etc. sense.

  4. RCCabra says:

    “De-risking” is used in pharmaceutical development; it refers to the process of generating data about a drug through the stages of regulatory (typically FDA or EMEA) approval. For example, a project that successfully demonstrates cardiovascular safety in a clinical trial is said to have been “de-risked,” in that it no longer runs the risk of being shut down due to cardiovascular adverse events. It may have other risks that have not been evaluated, but the implication is that since that particular concern has been put to rest, the project now has a higher overall chance of success than it did before the trial.

    The quote referenced, though, is a case of near-perfect corporate-speak. On the one hand, “de-risking” nods to a precise meaning tied to fundamental economic concepts of risk and return, and hints at a rigorous, substantive assessment of uncertainty in a well-managed project. So one could make a very strong statement by saying “I de-risked this project by doing x,y, and z, and now we are comfortable it will be a success.” But what he says instead, “As the project moves on, it de-risks…” amounts to an observation that as the day of the event gets closer, it is in fact more and more likely to occur; “de-risking” here is no more than a throw-away proxy for “moving toward the completion date.”

    So the comment from the UK Sports Minister resolves to a wonderfully meaningless “As the project moves forward, it moves towards the date of completion.” Plus, it appears to be losing limescale as it goes, which I suppose must be a British thing.

  5. Jerry says:

    I’d go for corporate-speak as well. Is ‘to risk’ a verb other than ‘to take a chance’? Climbing the corporate ladder I hear this kind of talk more and more, and I hate it. Most of it is in Dutch, but there are some mangled English words as well. It’s so ugly I always pretend not to hear them, but also tend not to remember them. I’ll make notes, maybe we can have a laugh afterwards!

  6. andre says:

    Only 310, I got plenty?

    Commenters above, god yes I hate those corporate jargon and it does sound a lot like it. It almost literally makes me sick.

  7. Christopher says:

    “De-scale” in this context makes no sense to me. “To scale” (as I’ve heard it used) means to increase the goals of a project while maintaining efficient processes. So either the project is shrinking (?) or he’s happy that it’s becoming more inefficient (??).

    My guess is that he actually means the opposite, that the project is becoming more efficient, and he’s referring to the size of the budget.