Thursday, October 01, 2009

Uncovering Project Execution Risk Areas

Risk free - never. Risk conscious - absolutely essential. The ability to determine, assess and mitigate risk is a requirement of projects that must display a higher level of predictability. The challenge is in revealing the risk areas that need further attention, the unknown hazards that transition to reality and disrupt the project flow like hitting a block wall.

Technical and business risks are typically addressed to a reasonable degree; project execution risks by and large lack the attention they need. A good definition of execution risk would be areas related to the people aspects of a project such as information needs, expectations of each other, deliverable requirements and so on. I would also include the thoroughness of the plan and resource availability in the category of execution risk, since these are also people related.

So how does one go about finding the execution risks? Since they are predominantly people related a good place to start would be to ask the team members. Some of the execution risk will be related to a specific project while the majority will likely be systemic risks that span multiple projects. People related risks tend to hide well; therefore good detective and people skills will be required to uncover them. A formalized discovery activity will provide a thorough assessment of the risk areas, particularly those related to project execution.

Where are all the project risks? The team has valuable input on this; it is in the projects best interest to make sure their concerns are aired. Hold a project Premortem to provide a venue that grants the team a voice. Sift through the information that is gathered to find the golden nuggets of information that will make it well worth the time spent. Discover the unknown execution risks that quietly disrupt project flow and remove a large source of project unpredictability.

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