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 riskspolitical 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.
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More articles on Project Management:
- Team Thrills
- Occasionally we have the experience of belonging to a great team. Thrilling as it is, the experience
is rare. How can we make it happen more often?
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges
do they face, and what can we do about them?
- Projects as Proxy Targets: I
- Some projects have detractors so determined to prevent project success that there's very little they
won't do to create conditions for failure. Here's Part I of a catalog of tactics they use.
- Why Scope Expands: II
- The scope of an effort underway tends to expand over time. Why do scopes not contract just as often?
One cause might be cognitive biases that make us more receptive to expansion than contraction.
- Symbolic Self-Completion and Projects
- The theory of symbolic self-completion holds that to define themselves, humans sometimes assert indicators
of achievement that either they do not have, or that do not mean what they seem to mean. This behavior
has consequences for managing project-oriented organizations.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
- When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
- And on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
- We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.
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