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What If You Get Hit By a Bus?

BusWhat if you get hit by a bus?

This is the standard question asked in project management circles to get people to think about risk.  It's sort of the PM equivalent of "it's all fun and games until somebody's eye gets put out."  The idea is to get people to think about the borderline absurdities that can derail a project.  Those things that live in the outer reaches of reality... those unpleasantries that we don't like to think about but still COULD happen.

Here in Des Moines, we need to think of a new project risk management example.  It seems that our bus drivers have been getting too aggressive... clumsy... careless... dangerous.  Last week saw the third bus-pedestrian accident in the past nine months.  Now, for those of you in larger cities, I'm sure you're chuckling right now that we've only had three in nine months... but for us here in the middle of the Midwest, that's a little too frequent for our collective comfort level.

But let's take this back to our projects.  Are we accurately assessing the probability of each project risk event occurring?  Is the probability of the resignation of our key subject matter expert at 10% ... or is it really closer to 70%?  Is the probability of a vendor default really at 90%?  Or is that the assessment of the purchasing manager whose ego was bruised by this same vendor and is more like 10%?

The best risk management assessments in my career were discussed in a group.  We gave our initial gut reaction, and if there were discrepancies, we talked through them until we reached consensus.  Then you can create an appropriate response for each risk.  To do anything less is like crossing the street in downtown Des Moines.

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