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.
We'll continue next time with three more risk management strategies. Next in this series Top Next Issue
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:
- 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?
- Why Scope Expands: I
- Scope creep is depressingly familiar. Its anti-partner, spontaneous and stealthy scope contraction,
has no accepted name, and is rarely seen. Why?
- 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.
- The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we
tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable.
- Seven More Planning Pitfalls: II
- Planning teams, like all teams, are susceptible to several patterns of interaction that can lead to
counter-productive results. Three of these most relevant to planners are False Consensus, Groupthink,
and Shared Information Bias.
See also Project Management and Devious Political Tactics for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
- When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
- And on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
- Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.
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