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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More articles on Project Management:
- Are You Changing Tactics or Moving the Goal Posts?
- When we make a mid-course correction in a project, we're usually responding to a newly uncovered difficulty
that requires a change in tactics. Sometimes, we can't resist the temptation to change the goals of
the project at the same time. And that can be a big mistake.
- Toxic Projects
- A toxic project is one that harms its organization, its people or its customers. We often think of toxic
projects as projects that fail, but even a "successful" project can hurt people or damage
the organization — sometimes irreparably.
- The Politics of the Critical Path: I
- The Critical Path of a project or activity is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest
completion date of the effort. If you're responsible for one of these tasks, you live in a unique political
- Wishful Interpretation: II
- Wishful "thinking," as we call it, can arise in different ways. One source is the pattern
of choices we make when we interpret what we see, what we hear, or any other information we receive.
Here's Part II of an inventory of ways our preferences and wishes affect how we interpret the world.
- Some Perils of Reverse Scheduling
- Especially when time is tight, project sponsors sometimes ask their project managers to produce "reverse
schedules." They want to know what would have to be done by when to complete their projects "on
time." It's a risky process that produces aggressive schedules.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 1: The Big Power of Little Words
- Big, fancy words, like commensurate or obfuscation, tend to be more noticed than the little everyday words, like yet or best. That might be why the little words can be so much more powerful, steering conversations where their users want them to go. Available here and by RSS on February 1.
- And on February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
- Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
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