Risk Response Planning – Getting Beyond Obvious

For risk response planning a good project manager ensures that thorough, executable, and approved risk response plans are in place before the risk occurs.

  • Thorough means there should be no unexpected ramifications of the risk response planning like unforeseen costs or impacts on other parts of the project.
  • Executable means the budget, people and capability exists to implement the response plan when it is necessary.
  • Approved means the project manager has ensured pre-approval of the response plan so that it can be implemented with a minimum of delay as required. It is agonizing to be a part of a project where a risk occurs, and you have a response plan that your leadership or steering committee then discusses for two weeks before acting. (Note, I did not assume that a steering committee was leadership and you should never make that assumption, as a steering committee may be made up of leaders, its actions are often the opposite of leadership).

One of the challenges of risk response planning is making sure the project team doesn’t fixate or choose the first viable response as the solution without consideration of a variety of alternatives. My experience as a leader was that this focus on a single, obvious solution for a risk response occurred in most circumstances. Sometimes the obvious solution is the best solution, but due diligence demands that we invest the time to take a methodical look at alternatives. Consider having the following nine questions answered to get team members to think beyond the obvious when it comes to risk response planning.

  1. If there were unlimited funds with no budget or resource constraints what would we do?
  2. If there were unlimited time with no schedule constraints what would we do?
  3. If the budget was only ½ of what is available for the current solution for this risk, what would we do?
  4. If we only had ½ the time of what is available for the current solution for this risk, what would we do?
  5. What is the most aggressive solution?
  6. What is the most conservative solution?
  7. What is the most outrageous, outside the box, solution?
  8. What solution is best for the long-term viability of the project deliverable?
  9. If you were the customer, what solution would you choose?

Even if addressing these nine questions does not change or modify the obvious solution it will cause you, the project team, and the customer to have a greater confidence in that solution. Many times, addressing these questions results in a different solution or a modification of the obvious solution that improves the risk response dramatically. The challenge is making the time and resource investment to answer these questions, and thoroughness always has a price and not paying that price is a primary contributor to cost overruns and schedule delays.

Dr. James T. Brown, PMP, PE CSP, Author, The Handbook of Program Management, McGraw-Hill

Posted by Dr. James Brown in Project Management, Risk Management Strategies and Tactics, Risk Response Planning.


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