Getting a handle on risk and confidence

In one of our earlier posts “Addressing challenges along the program delivery path” we talked about how successful program management seeks to ensure that the impact of changes in business operations is coordinated and that the transition to the new ways of working is explicitly managed.  However, programs are fraught with challenges.  Delivery is never guaranteed.

To overcome these challenges, program management should focus on inter-dependencies between the projects and the risks and issues that may impact the program as a whole through leadership, direction setting and decision-making processes with individuals responsible for these processes. 

Hired by a client recently to define a large strategic program, we were faced with a familiar set of circumstances. There was no formal organization, plenty of perceived expended effort with little forward motion and no view of or control over a myriad of potentially crippling risks.

Taking back control we put proper planning in place with the Work stream Brief and defined the work to be done in a structured way using the Work Breakdown Structure. However, as helpful as these measures were, there was no view of the impact that risk had on project delivery and without this view, they couldn’t address the ongoing impacts.

In addition to a traditional risk log we coached project managers to develop an understanding of these risks and their impact and helped them report on the confidence of successful delivery. The tool we developed to do this was the confidence matrix.

An example shown above, this matrix is used to help project managers think about the risks facing them against a common set of dimensions such as scope, resources etc. and to define their confidence in delivery in easy to understand language color coded to focus attention on those with the highest impact and needing attention – those representing the biggest threat to successful delivery.

We have found that the confidence matrix is an excellent way to focus the attention of busy executives on the problems that matter. Risks and issues are handled as a continuum, and the matrix forms an integral part of the management process, providing a highly visible, top-down view which allows a clear management focus on the real threats.

Through a one-page snapshot, stakeholders can quickly determine which areas require immediate attention.

A confidence matrix brings risk management and prgram management closer together and enables an effective management through:

  • A top-down framework to ensure focus and completeness
  • A proactive process and forums for resolution, reporting and escalation
  • Application at both program and project levels, with rules for escalation
  • A brief summary of the detailed logs which record and classify risks, issues and other constraints, i.e. their likelihood, severity, owners, action assignments and status.

With this new awareness, helped by the confidence matrix, the client was able to quickly take control of their projects and vastly improve delivery confidence. The entire program is now on track for successful delivery.

John Hall

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Comments

  • Crispin ("Kik") Piney  On June 5, 2011 at 3:04 am

    A good start, but, I would suggest, only a start.

    I would suggest going to the next stage of formalization. You currently have a table for listing risks by workstream and category. However, the following would help:
    1) separate responses (e.g. “need to work with IT”) from causes (“IT solution dependent on CDA approval”) and introduce a structured risk statement including cause, event, effect and category.
    2) Assess the importance of the risks so as to prioritize action
    3) Describe the risk before attmepting to decide on a response

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