Preston Smith's Corner

What are some day-to-day tools for dealing with project risk?

April 2000 Quick Tip

Several months ago we suggested a technique for the overall management of risk in a development project. Within that broad framework, here are some tactical measures that you can apply daily.

First, simply avoid risk whenever possible, for example, by reusing proven designs and components. Although this seems too simple to mention, many projects incur unnecessary risk due to redesigns making something slightly better.

Stay flexible on a major unresolved issue. This is generally an expensive option, so you can’t use it often. But it can allow you to move ahead in a major area of uncertainty.

Keep in touch with customers throughout the project to ensure that you are still meeting their needs. Their needs will undoubtedly change as your project proceeds!

Identify the showstoppers initially and work on them first. This is not natural human tendency, but your whole project depends on resolving these critical risks.

Place your risk where you can keep an eye on it. Too often, we disperse risk throughout the product. Then we lose track of where the high-risk areas are.

Resolve risk at the lowest level possible. Don’t wait until you have a prototype product to test. Instead, run earlier tests of subassemblies, or better yet, components.

Plan to fail. Think of risk management as a process of learning. Interestingly, we don’t learn very fast if we always succeed!

For a fuller explanation of these tools, see our paper “Managing Risk as Product Development Cycles Shrink.”

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


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