Try this exercise with your team to identify, overcome and avoid potential project “gotchas”:

Get the team to write a project obituary — ask them to imagine the project is nearly over and has failed, and their job for the next 45 minutes is to describe all the things that went wrong contributing to its eventual demise. Often times, people who are difficult to engage in “regular vision” exercises relish the opportunity to list all the things that could go wrong. Perhaps given a slightly pessimistic slant on life, they can generate an exhaustive list of possible — albeit gloomy — outcomes for the project. These might include communication failures that lead to mismatched expectations, vendor delays, team morale issues… anything that could negatively impact the project.

Run the session as you would a brainstorming session with someone in a facilitator role recording the ailments on a white board (or via sticky pad notes) and prompting submitters for more detail to clarify understanding where required. If you used sticky notes, group related problems under broad categories. Review the lists with the group and then ask people to quietly think through potential solutions to these problems and take a break for 15 minutes.

Then after the break, solicit solutions (vaccines) to each of the problems (ailments) from the team.

The only thing I’d add to this is the encouragement to do so regularly throughout the project lifecycle. It’s not called Continuous Risk Management for nothing.

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Martin Burns

Transformation Consultant at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Proactive Risk Management: The Obituary Exercise by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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