Discussing risk in general terms is always difficult, because many professions have their own ways of thinking about it. For now, let's regard risk as the chance of losing an asset. We measure the chance as a probability. We measure the asset in units of value.
If the probability of loss in a given time interval is P, and the value of the asset is V, the expected value of loss in that time interval is PV. In a large number of identical trials, our average loss per trial would be PV.
Sound decisions about enterprise resources do consider risk. For example, in estimating a project budget, we might consider the possibility that one of our suppliers might deliver a subsystem three months late. To manage this risk, we might reserve resources to deal with it if it occurs. If the cost of dealing with this event is V, and the probability of it occurring is P, then the reserves required are PV.
That's one example of a strategy for dealing with a risk. Fortunately, it isn't the only strategy available, and in many cases we can do much better. Here's Part I of a summary of the possible strategic options for dealing with risk, emphasizing ineffective (but very common) approaches.
- Those in denial are those who reject the reality of the risk event.
- Slogan: "That'll never happen. You're such a worrier!"
- Advantage: Denial lets Those in denial are those
who reject the reality
of the risk eventus feel that preparation is unnecessary, because there's no risk. It can be a comforting illusion, especially for those reluctant to allocate resources to managing risk.
- Danger: If the risk event occurs, we're unprepared. Worse, we can become disoriented when we find that our view of the world is fiction.
- Shock happens when we're blindsided by the unexpected.
- Slogan: "OMG, nobody could've anticipated that."
- Advantage: If the unexpected doesn't happen, we can remain in a state of blissful ignorance.
- Danger: If the unexpected happens too late for us to take remedial action, disaster is possible.
- Acceptance is the strategy for those who don't want to prepare.
- Slogan: "That might happen. We'll deal with it then."
- Advantage: It requires no advance resource allocation. If the risk event doesn't occur, no resources are expended.
- Danger: It can lead us to believe that we have less need for resources than we actually do. Acceptance is a prudent strategy only when PV is very small.
- This approach happens when we're so distracted by immediate events that we cannot plan for future risks.
- Slogan: "Heavens! We've been meaning to plan for that. We clean forgot!"
- Advantage: By focusing our resources elsewhere, we do accomplish some tasks. Without a risk plan, allocating resources to risk management becomes unnecessary.
- Danger: If risk events arrive before we can allocate resources to risk planning, the risk response can be inadequate, and full-scale disaster is possible.
Projects never go quite as planned. We expect that, but we don't expect disaster. How can we get better at spotting disaster when there's still time to prevent it? How to Spot a Troubled Project Before the Trouble Starts is filled with tips for executives, senior managers, managers of project managers, and sponsors of projects in project-oriented organizations. It helps readers learn the subtle cues that indicate that a project is at risk for wreckage in time to do something about it. It's an ebook, but it's about 15% larger than "Who Moved My Cheese?" Just . Order Now! .
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More articles on Project Management:
- Bois Sec!
- When your current approach isn't working, you can scrap whatever you're doing and start again —
if you have enough time and money. There's a less radical solution, and if it works, it's usually both
cheaper and faster.
- The Politics of Lessons Learned
- Many organizations gather lessons learned — or at least, they believe they do. Mastering the political
subtleties of lessons learned efforts enhances results.
- The Retrospective Funding Problem
- If your organization regularly conducts project retrospectives, you're among the very fortunate. Many
organizations don't. But even among those that do, retrospectives are often underfunded, conducted by
amateurs, or too short. Often, key people "couldn't make it." We can do better than this.
What's stopping us?
- Ego Depletion and Priority Setting
- Setting priorities for tasks is tricky when we find the tasks unappealing, because we have limited energy
for self-control. Here are some strategies for limiting these effects on priority setting.
- Premortems are simulated retrospective examinations of future events, conducted as if those future events
had already occurred. By combining the benefits of psychological safety with a shift in temporal perspective,
they offer advantages for planners.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
- And on December 14: Straw Man Variants
- The straw man fallacy is a famous rhetorical fallacy. Using it distorts debate and can lead groups to reach faulty conclusions. It's ad readily recognized, but it has some variants that are more difficult to spot. When unnoticed, trouble looms. Available here and by RSS on December 14.
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