Stripping Project Management to Its Core: Evaluating Project Risk with a Few Questions

If you read through all the specialist literature, risk management planning is about creating lots of documentation, making plenty of complicated calculations and taking some decisions at the end. All this based on rather subjective evaluations. That’s why I prefer to transform this complicated framework into a small number of logical questions, which are easy to answer and powerful enough to help in creating a good risk management plan. Let’s go through them and see if they make sense.

What is most likely to fail?

Imagining all possible failure scenarios doesn’t do any good to anybody. It simply increases the fear of failure and doesn’t lead to positive action. Instead, I believe it is better to simply ask yourself (and the project team): what is most likely to fail? Deep inside, we all know what exactly is shaky and likely to cause issues. Simply write down these items and go to the next step. No need in dwelling too much on fears.

One good approach here is to think first about the most important things about delivering your project: duration, cost, quality and also benefits achieved by the project. When asking yourself about possible failure points, think from the perspective of these dimensions. Failures which do not impact truly important aspects of your project delivery can be ignored when making your risk management plan.

What would increase my chances of success?

Risk is almost associated with negatives and fears. What about the positives? Write down those things in your direct area of influence which, if they do happen, increase your chances of success. Only thinking about them will make you feel good. As with negative risks, write down the big things, not every small, unlikely possibility.

What does have a real chance of actually taking place?

By now you should have a pretty long list of items. Too long actually. Review everything and, for each item, ask yourself (and the team): does this have a real chance of taking place?
If the answer is Yes, keep it on the list. If it is No, don’t hesitate to remove it.

What should I do?

For each risk you identified, you need to decide what you should do to avoid, mitigate or enhance risks, depending on their context. You must have clear answers about what should be done and the costs involved.

Do I do something about it or leave it to chance?

The last and most important step is to look through the items that made it through your filtering and take a decision: do you do something about them? What do you leave to chance?
Evaluate the cost of negative risks taking place and the cost of you doing something about it so that they don’t take place (or are less likely to take place). Do the math and choose those negative risks which you can afford to tackle.

Regarding the positive risks, make a plan so that they have a high chance of taking place. What is the cost of that plan? Can you afford it?
If Yes, include that risk and your plan on the final list. If you cannot afford to do something about it, simply remove it from the list and leave it to chance.

Is This Approach Risky?

I hope the approach I propose make sense and is simple enough to use on your projects. Before you go, let me know what you think about it: is this approach risky or not?

Related content:

Stripping Project Management to Its Core: Time Management Planning Simplified
Stripping Project Management to Its Core: Planning Happiness
Stripping Project Management to Its Core: Planning What You Need to Get Things Done!

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