In Part I of this two-part series, we examined the organizational and political risks of risk management plans and processes. Now we turn to the risks that arise from change and from the interactions between risks.
- Risk dynamics risk
- Risk is a dynamic attribute of projects. Even if a project were frozen in place, its risk probabilities and risk impacts could change, because its environment changes. It's necessary to review risk plans with a frequency compatible with the volatility of the risk environment, which is itself difficult to estimate.
- Indicators of risk dynamics risk include risk plans that remain unchanged for long periods of time; budgets and schedules that omit risk reviews or perhaps schedule them infrequently; and retrospectives that don't address risk review. If these indicators are present, risk dynamics risk is also likely present.
- Intra-project risk interactions
- Risk interactions within a given project are especially problematic. Two risks might seem independent, but the probability of one occurring might change if the other materializes; or the response to one risk might alter the consequences of or the probabilities of materialization of others; or the response to one risk might limit the project's ability to respond to another.
- For instance, if Arthur is backup for both Tory and Chris, all's well, as long as either Tory or Chris is available. If both become unavailable, we have trouble.
- The method known as morphological analysis developed by Fritz Zwicky, is useful for uncovering intra-project risk interactions. In this method, you examine all pairs of risks and ask, "If both risks materialize, will our planned responses still be effective?" If you find that the answer is "no," you can revise your plan. You can generalize this procedure to triples of risks, quadruples, and so on. For more on morphological analysis, see the article by Tom Ritchie at the Web site of the Swedish Morphological Society. Or take your pick from hundreds of sources.
- Inter-project risk interactions
- An inter-project risk interaction occurs when conditions in a given project change risk probabilities in another project, or cause risks to materialize in another project.
- For example, If Arthur is backup for both
Tory and Chris, all's well,
as long as either Tory or
Chris is availablesuppose two projects are scheduled to use the same resource serially. If the first project is delayed, the availability to the second project of that same resource changes. At the time of development of the risk plan of the second project, knowledge about the strategies and risks of the first would have been useful, but such information, sadly, is rarely shared.
- To limit inter-project risk interaction risk, coordinate risk reviews with projects likely to transmit risk back and forth. If the risk profile of one of the projects changes, there is enhanced probability of impact on the other.
Most risk conditions are connected to at least a few other risk conditions, either internal or external to the project. Maps of these connections can be very helpful. First in this series Top Next Issue
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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