Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 11;   March 17, 2010: Risk Management Risk: I

Risk Management Risk: I

by

Risk Management Risk is the risk that a particular risk management plan is deficient. It's often overlooked, and therefore often unmitigated. We can reduce this risk by applying some simple procedures.
Example of an unsecured driver-side floor mat trapping the accelerator pedal in a 2007 Toyota Lexus ES350

Example of an unsecured driver-side floor mat trapping the accelerator pedal in a 2007 Toyota Lexus ES350. We don't yet know much about the root cause of quality problems in recent models of vehicles designed and manufactured by Toyota, but we can already evaluate the company's public response to the reports of problems. Briefly, their response has been erratic. In part, this might be due to the company's inexperience with defects. Their record has been so good, and recalls so few, that they might have had an organizational blind spot relating to the risk of public exposure of defects in their products. Undoubtedly, this blind spot is now being corrected, albeit in a manner most unpleasant for all concerned. Photo courtesy U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Risk plans are rarely perfect. For complex projects, unanticipated risk will almost certainly materialize. We can deal with this risk — I'll call it risk management risk — if we adopt some simple practices. Let's begin with some examples of organizational and political risks.

Organizational blind spots
Organizational risk management asset bases usually consist of previously developed risk plans and risk plan elements, documented risk plan development procedures, and personal experiences.
Although referring to these assets might uncover risks that any particular risk manager might not otherwise consider, relying on the asset base probably won't uncover risks not included there. Since continuous organizational change almost certainly exposes the organization to risks never before seen, these asset bases have blind spots.
To limit these blind spots, analyze the results of retrospectives to determine what risks were unanticipated. They provide clues to the location of the organization's blind spots.
Organizational political correctness
In general discourse, political correctness requires that we shape our statements and behavior — if not our opinions — to conform to a generally accepted ideological standard. Organizational political correctness provides an analogous constraint relative to the ideology and views of the organization.
Organizational Organizational political correctness
can limit the ability of risk managers
to address significant risks
political correctness can limit the ability of risk managers to address significant risks, when even discussing such risks calls into question organizational beliefs, or the beliefs of those who have internal political power.
If a common theme appears among unanticipated risks, if those risks are evident to many, and if the same risks materialize across many projects, organizational political correctness could be a cause. Organizational culture change is required to address this risk.
Political risk
The organizational value of any project is determined, in part, by the political clout of its advocates. How an organization values a project can present risks to it through resource allocation, schedule, and budget.
Although these risks are widely understood, talking about them openly and planning for them in writing is often difficult, for reasons far beyond organizational political correctness. For the politically weak project, committing to writing and review any plan to deal with political risks simply provides a roadmap to rival projects if they are politically stronger. Such a risk plan is often effectively countered before it can be implemented. In some cases, it might even be forbidden. This effect is especially pronounced if a state of toxic conflict persists between the departments, leaders, or champions of the two projects.
Two factors suggest the presence of political risk. First is the absence of any explicit mention of political risk from the risk plans of politically weak projects. A second indicator can be changes in the execution plan of politically stronger projects, especially following publication of the risk plan of a politically weaker project.

In Part II, we'll examine risk dynamics and risk interactions.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Risk Management Risk: II  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenxYdOGzgWfEtcEeitner@ChacMIRtKdXITNVYVqBhoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Project Management:

An air traffic controller using a display system at an Air Route Traffic Control CenterRemote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: I
Whoever facilitates your distributed meetings — whether a dedicated facilitator or the meeting chair — will discover quickly that remote facilitation presents special problems. Here's a little catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
The Samuel Morse Telegraph ReceiverRemote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: III
Facilitators of synchronous distributed meetings (meetings that occur in real time, via telephone or video) can make life much easier for everyone by taking steps before the meeting starts. Here's Part III of a little catalog of suggestions for remote facilitators.
A visual illusionScope Creep and the Planning Fallacy
Much is known about scope creep, but it nevertheless occurs with such alarming frequency that in some organizations, it's a certainty. Perhaps what keeps us from controlling it better is that its causes can't be addressed with management methodology. Its causes might be, in part, psychological.
Ross Marshall and Don Pugh at the kickoff meeting for the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) at Tinker Air Force BaseDeep Trouble and Getting Deeper
Here's a catalog of actions people take when the projects they're leading are in deep trouble, and they're pretty sure there's no way out.
The "Face on Mars" as seen by Viking 1 in 1976, compared to the MGS image taken in 2001Wishful Thinking and Perception: I
How we see the world defines our experience of it, because our perception is our reality. But how we see the world isn't necessarily how the world is.

See also Project Management and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'Coming February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
George Orwell's 1933 press card photo issued by the Branch of the National Union of JournalistsAnd on March 7: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: II
Narcissistic behavior at work threatens the enterprise. People who behave narcissistically systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this Part II of the series we consider the narcissistic preoccupation with superiority fantasies. Available here and by RSS on March 7.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenlZSDwJZUnYDYYsMAner@ChacFyuFApXUZdHflQxPoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.