I think Peter Drucker gets the credit for the quote more often than anyone else, but it actually goes all the way back to Galileo. I bring it up only to make the point that identifying and understanding problems (risks) is not a new idea. Isn’t it amazing then that our industry isn’t better at it by now, since the notion is hundreds of years old?
The problem, in many cases, is really just that many responsible for handling risks on projects believe that only an all-encompassing plan will do them any good, while this effort typically gets in the way of getting any kind of measurement in place quickly enough. When you get down to the heart of it, a measurement process really only needs to deal with the following:
- What do we have to measure?
- What decision do we have to address?
- How does what we’re measuring relate to the decision we have to make?
- What do we already know?
- What more do we have to know?
Answering those five questions can lead to a risk analysis effort that may be very large or may be so small that it’s practically done already. The key is in asking the last two questions, which often aren’t addressed. Not making the assumption that you know nothing can save a huge amount of time and expense, and getting a clear picture of what more you actually need to know (as opposed to trying to know everything) keeps you from going so far overboard that you never get started.