Could Your Project Withstand an Earthquake?

The earthquakes and associated catastrophes in Japan highlight the important and often ignored area of project risk management. There are some things we can’t control. It’s not just natural disasters and events like terrorist attacks.

What would you do if any of the following occurred during your project?

  • Your project loses it’s top performer / visionary.
  • The product owner is distracted by higher priority projects.
  • A key competitor announces a new product that trumps yours.

These events, and many others like them, occur on a regular basis. Most teams press the panic button. There is no plan in place that enables the team to adjust to the new situation.

There is no way to cost-effectively prepare for every possible disaster scenario but every team should evaluate their vulnerabilities.

  • What are the weakest areas on the team?
  • Where is the team most exposed to critical failures?

Next, evaluate vulnerabilities by simply asking what would happen to the team and the project if one of the vulnerabilities became reality. These outcomes are the risks.

Finally, ask yourself what you should do about each risk:

  • Accept it – The probability and impact are small enough to warrant doing nothing.
  • Avoid it – There is a big enough impact to justify taking action to fix the vulnerability.
  • Transfer it – This usually involves taking out an insurance policy or hiring an outside vendor to assume the risk.
  • Mitigate it – Take action to reduce the size and/or scope of the vulnerability balancing cost against risk.

No nation is better equipped to handle natural disasters than Japan. They will bounce back from the recent earthquakes and other catastrophic events, no matter what. Would your project bounce back from disaster?

Don’t let the unexpected catch you by surprise. Taking simple, practical steps will prepare you for any adverse event(s). You can’t prevent all risks from happening but you can be ready to act quickly if they occur.

That’s being truly agile.

Updated: March 13, 2011 — 10:14 pm