Lesson on Risk Management

Having been in project management for many years, there are lots of examples of how applying the right approach has proven successful.  Here is one relating to risk management.

In a major company wide project to implement a new system, we spent several weeks doing the planning.  It was evident there were about six key personnel who would need to guide us through the configuration and customisation of the software.  We worked closely with them to develop the plan for the project.

During the planning we did a risk workshop.  An obvious risk was that over the 15 months the project would take, we might loose one or more of the six key participants.  As a mitigation action we decided that each of the six would have an understudy.  They would select a knowledgeable colleague and ensure they were across all relevant aspects of the project.  They would attend key meetings and participate in decision making activities.  It was an overhead in terms of cost and time but one we thought was worth doing.

A few months into the project, one key player announced she was pregnant.  She would be leaving the project at a critical stage.  Fortunately, because of our risk planning, we had a back up in place.  The girl later told me that she was in fact pregnant when appointed to the project but had decided not to make it public until the first trimester had passed as she had problems previously with pregnancies.  She said she was torn for a week between participation and revealing her pregnancy.  When we did the risk assessment she could see the damage caused by her leaving the project had been alleviated.  A weight had been lifted.  She focused on ensuring her understudy was fully prepared.

She did have further complications and a few months later had to give up full time work.  Fortunately the pregnancy went full term and she delivered a healthy baby.  The impact of her leaving the project was minimised.  We brought forward key decisions and these were made before she left, and her replacement carried on her work.

I have heard people say risk management is a waste of time.  The risks never eventuated.  It is only when a risk does eventuate that the value of the exercise is illustrated.  We have probably all seen the situation where the impact of a risk is minimised.  We should have the stories ready to roll out when we do strike opposition to a proper risk management program.  Experience is a great teacher.

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