Risk plans are rarely perfect. For complex projects, unanticipated risk will almost certainly materialize. We can deal with this risk — I'll call it risk management risk — if we adopt some simple practices. Let's begin with some examples of organizational and political risks.
- Organizational blind spots
- Organizational risk management asset bases usually consist of previously developed risk plans and risk plan elements, documented risk plan development procedures, and personal experiences.
- Although referring to these assets might uncover risks that any particular risk manager might not otherwise consider, relying on the asset base probably won't uncover risks not included there. Since continuous organizational change almost certainly exposes the organization to risks never before seen, these asset bases have blind spots.
- To limit these blind spots, analyze the results of retrospectives to determine what risks were unanticipated. They provide clues to the location of the organization's blind spots.
- Organizational political correctness
- In general discourse, political correctness requires that we shape our statements and behavior — if not our opinions — to conform to a generally accepted ideological standard. Organizational political correctness provides an analogous constraint relative to the ideology and views of the organization.
- Organizational Organizational political correctness
can limit the ability of risk managers
to address significant riskspolitical correctness can limit the ability of risk managers to address significant risks, when even discussing such risks calls into question organizational beliefs, or the beliefs of those who have internal political power.
- If a common theme appears among unanticipated risks, if those risks are evident to many, and if the same risks materialize across many projects, organizational political correctness could be a cause. Organizational culture change is required to address this risk.
- Political risk
- The organizational value of any project is determined, in part, by the political clout of its advocates. How an organization values a project can present risks to it through resource allocation, schedule, and budget.
- Although these risks are widely understood, talking about them openly and planning for them in writing is often difficult, for reasons far beyond organizational political correctness. For the politically weak project, committing to writing and review any plan to deal with political risks simply provides a roadmap to rival projects if they are politically stronger. Such a risk plan is often effectively countered before it can be implemented. In some cases, it might even be forbidden. This effect is especially pronounced if a state of toxic conflict persists between the departments, leaders, or champions of the two projects.
- Two factors suggest the presence of political risk. First is the absence of any explicit mention of political risk from the risk plans of politically weak projects. A second indicator can be changes in the execution plan of politically stronger projects, especially following publication of the risk plan of a politically weaker project.
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More articles on Project Management:
- See No Evil
- When teams share information among themselves, they have their best opportunity to reach peak performance.
And when some information is withheld within an elite group, the team faces unique risks.
- The Politics of the Critical Path: I
- The Critical Path of a project or activity is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest
completion date of the effort. If you're responsible for one of these tasks, you live in a unique political
- The Politics of the Critical Path: II
- The Critical Path of a project is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest completion
date of the effort. We don't usually consider tasks that are already complete, but they, too, can experience
the unique politics of the critical path.
- The Retrospective Funding Problem
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organizations don't. But even among those that do, retrospectives are often underfunded, conducted by
amateurs, or too short. Often, key people "couldn't make it." We can do better than this.
What's stopping us?
- More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- Retrospectives — also known as lessons learned exercises or after-action reviews — sometimes
miss important insights. Here are some additions to our growing catalog of obstacles to learning.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 28: Four Overlooked Email Risks: II
- Email exchanges are notorious for exposing groups to battles that would never occur in face-to-face conversation. But email has other limitations, less-often discussed, that make managing dialog very difficult. Here's Part II of an exploration of some of those risks. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
- And on April 4: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on April 4.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.