Preston Smith's Corner

How do we understand, as a team, the risks that a project faces?

March 2002 Quick Tip

One reason why teams manage their project’s risks poorly is that they simply cannot agree on the risks their project faces. Each person has his or her own notion of the project’s most serious risk, based on personal experience or stake in the project.

The “secret” to taking risks out of the realm of opinions is to base each project risk solidly on the facts that support it; we call these facts “drivers” of the risk. If you fail to work with risks based on their facts, you will never reach agreement on the risks that you may identify, and you will be unable to take concerted action against them.

Fact-based risk management requires two disciplines. One is to simply require facts to support alleged risks, and the other is a framework on which to “hang” these facts.

Drivers (facts) are essential ingredients of an effective risk management process. They allow you to

  • Quantify a risk, so you can determine how serious it is
  • Prioritize your project’s risks, enabling you to focus on serious ones
  • Formulate effective plans for resolving your project’s risks

A model of a risk provides an exceedingly useful framework for working with these drivers. A model shows you which drivers influence which parts of the risk, clarifying your options for resolving the risk and enabling you to monitor risk resolution progress.

We cover this subject in depth in our forthcoming book, Proactive Risk Management. (May 2002) In the meantime, see our online articles, “Just the Facts, Ma’am” and “Using a Risk Model to Build Development Team Consensus.”

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.


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