Mastering Project Risk Management

Understanding Risks

In project management, “Russian Roulette Risks” perfectly encapsulates the high-stakes, unpredictable challenges project managers often face.

In risk management, there lies a deceptive and often overlooked danger: the illusion of safety born from previous success. This fallacy can lead organizations and individuals to mistakenly believe that a course of action is low risk simply because it has been navigated before without apparent repercussions. This flawed perception mirrors the dangerous game of Russian Roulette or playing with fire—just because the flame has been lit once with no ill effects does not guarantee safety on subsequent attempts.

The Fallacy of Familiarity

The fallacy of familiarity is a trap that can ensnare even the most seasoned professionals. It occurs when past experiences overshadow objective analysis, leading to complacency that can blindside us. Just as in Russian Roulette, where each pull of the trigger does not affect the odds of the next, every business or project management decision carries its own set of risks, independent of past outcomes. The individual risk does not change, but the overall risk changes. In the case of our 1 chance in 6 revolver, the next chamber leads to a 1 chance in 5 as the previous trigger pull did not result in a bang.  If a bullet is in one of the chambers, our luck will soon run out.  If we are blissfully unaware of a potential problem because of this familiarity, we will continue on this path until the threat materializes.

Historical Missteps: A Cautionary Tale

Consider the 2008 financial crisis, a stark example of the illusion of safety in action. Financial institutions engaged in high-risk lending and investment practices previously yielded high returns. Over time, these practices became normalized. The underlying risks were always there, but there was no visible manifestation – failure at large. The eventual market collapse illustrated how reliance on past success without adequate risk assessment can lead to catastrophic failures.

The Nature of Risks in Projects

Project risks can sometimes seem as unpredictable as a game of Russian roulette, where the outcomes are uncertain and potentially disastrous. The “Russian Roulette Risks” approach highlights the severity and unpredictability of certain risks in project management. Understanding these risks is crucial for developing a robust risk management strategy.

Historical Successes and Failures

Historically, approaches that worked well in managing project risks in one context did not always translate successfully to other contexts. This unpredictability mirrors the randomness of Russian roulette, where past outcomes do not necessarily predict future results. Learning from successes and failures is essential to refine risk management practices continually.

Insights from Alleman and Quigley

Glen B. Alleman and Jon M. Quigley’s book on risk management offers profound insights into dealing with project risks. Their methodology emphasizes the importance of identifying, assessing, and managing risks with a structured and systematic approach. They advocate for a proactive stance in risk management, which is critical when dealing with high-stakes risks.  For more examples check out the 5 P’s from their latest book.

  1. People
  2. Princples
  3. Process
  4. Practices
  5. Preception

Applying Theory to Practice

Applying the theoretical knowledge from Alleman and Quigley’s work, project managers can better navigate the treacherous waters of risks. This includes using tools and techniques to identify potential risks early and strategies to mitigate them effectively before they lead to project derailment.

Mastering Risks

To master risk in project management, one must adopt a comprehensive and proactive risk management strategy. By leveraging the insights from experts like Alleman and Quigley, project managers can equip themselves to handle even the most unpredictable challenges effectively.

We are creating a risk management class that is connected with this book.  For more information, contact us

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Post by Jon Quigley