Risk resistance is the objection to all or part of a risk plan's content. Typically, objectors are project sponsors or senior managers. Typical objections are that the risks in question are fictitious, or that the mitigation plan is too expensive. Since the organizational power of the objectors generally exceeds that of the risk plan's authors, authors often simply eliminate or downgrade the items with which objectors disagree.
Although risks rarely materialize as projected, something similar often does. A classic example is the flooding of New Orleans in 2005. Concerns about such catastrophes trace back at least to the Flood Control Act of 1965, but the resources provided over the years for mitigating flood risk were most inadequate. The result of these mitigation downgrades is the disaster following Hurricane Katrina.
Downgrading risk plans — or their funding — doesn't downgrade the risk or make risk mitigation any cheaper. Instead, it opens gaps between risk plans and reality. That's how risk resistance creates risk. Here are four methods for addressing risk resistance risk.
- Make risk plan revision traceable
- Document risk plan revision in a Risk Plan Revision History — a section of the project plan that documents the downgrading of risk probability estimates and risk mitigation budgets.
- Traceability facilitates corrective action when the organization is found unprepared for risks that do materialize. Record in the History the original risk plan elements, the reasoning supporting the modifications, and the dates of and parties to the downgrade decisions.
- Retrospectively review gaps between risk plans and reality
- After an unanticipated risk materializes, and its full impact on budget and schedule are known, review how it was addressed in the risk plan.
- Was the risk anticipated in the final plan? If not, was it addressed in any earlier versions of the risk plan? Were earlier versions of the plan downgraded? Use the Risk Plan Revision History to answer these questions.
- Measure risk response budgets and actuals
- Keep accurate historical data measuring both the budget and actuals for risk response.
- Managing risk more Document risk plan revision in
a Risk Plan Revision Historyeffectively requires narrowing the gap between risk plan budgets and risk response expenditures. Rarely do we have the necessary data available when we try to assess our risk performance. Start collecting it now.
- Measure risk performance globally
- Mitigating risk by taking actions that harm other projects can be expensive to the organization.
- Some projects use political power to export the costs of their risk responses onto other projects. For example, reassigning people with rare skills — or holding onto them longer than planned — might aid one project, but it can harm others. To assign responsibility for these costs correctly, measure risk response costs across the entire organization, as opposed to per-project.
Objectors to risk plans, who often recognize the implications of the measures suggested here, might raise objections to implementing them. Begin advocacy or implementation only when you're prepared to meet those objections. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Project Management:
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- Unnecessary Boring Work: I
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- Ten Approaches to Managing Project Risks: II
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if they do happen. Here's Part II of our exploration of coping strategies for unwanted events.
- Avoid Having to Reframe Failure
- Yet again, we missed our goal — we were late, we were over budget, or we lost to the competition.
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