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4 minutes

Part 3 of 6: The Risk Analysis

Whoever said “think only happy thoughts” might have had good intentions, but they probably weren’t good at planning. The 3rd step of starting a project with BS LLC goes gently down dark paths. Why? So we can prepare for (nearly) any eventuality.

The first step was defining our relationship with our Service Contract, and what our project needs to accomplish with the Project Charter. Next, we thought deep and wide with our Spiritual Kickoff. Now, we can start thinking creatively —  but our third step takes an unexpected turn.

The BS LLC Risk Register experience is like a mini-workshop. The staff at BS LLC, who will be executing the project, gathers your team’s decision-makers to ask: 

“What could possibly go wrong?”

A Diversity of Like Minds

The meeting should be attended by the project’s builders and the project’s owners—those who will manage it and those who need to see (and prove) results from it. On your side (our client), you’ll want to have representation of customer-facing staff, marketing staff, and senior administrators who will need to account for the outcome.

On our end (your BS LLC team), we include our creative director, strategist, project manager, and account manager. Having a diverse-but-responsible group means that you can address potential issues from all angles — increasing the likelihood that potential problems will be headed off at the pass.

How the Game is Played

After a bit of orientation, we ask, “What could go wrong with this project? What could stand in the way of achieving our goals?”

Then we set a timer for 5 minutes for quiet writing. (A timer which flies by.) Everyone in the meeting must contribute at least one potential problem, roadblock, or issue (most people have no trouble listing numerous examples).

When the time’s up (“Pencil’s down!”), we segment, rank, and discuss the group’s contributions according to an elementary rubric.

Slice ‘n dice. Shake n’ bake.

Everything is shared and recorded, and here’s how the discussion goes, one “risk” at a time, shared by one participant at a time.

  • Why did you think this was a risk?
    • It’s important that each participant shares why they think their contributed risk (or risks) is important. By sharing their rationale, other team members get visibility to aspects of the business outside of their own.
  • What type of risk is this? 
    • Each risk is given a type. Why? By forcing a type onto whatever is suggested, it helps clarify the concern for others in the meeting who may need more color than the previous explanation could offer. The types include: 
      • Financial
      • Personnel
      • Technological
      • Resource
      • Time
      • Brand Integrity
  • What’s the likelihood that we’ll experience this situation?
    • Assigning a rating from 1 to 5 to each risk, with 1 meaning “remote chance it’ll happen,” to 5, “certain or expected to occur,” the team is forced to deal with the most probable real risks. It’s also encouraging to hear a group of your peers say, “No, I don’t think that one is very likely.”
  • If it does occur, how severe would its effects be?
    • Regardless of how likely a risk is determined to be, the group rates how much damage its occurrence would wreak. The scale ranges from 1, “mild damage to the project or company,” to 3, “severe damage.”
  • Now that we’ve shared this possibility, what will we do about it?
    • Every submitted risk gets ranged for severity and likelihood, and every risk gets a response. A 1–1 (remote / mild) may have very little in terms of a contingency plan, whereas a 5–3 will require some clear action steps. 

This exercise can profoundly affect a project, ranging from team unification to project modification — or even cancellation. Getting together to talk about everything that could go wrong about a project can help you and your team make sure that most things go right.

About the Author:

Sam Lowe conducts research to help build full-featured road maps and strategies for BS LLC clients ranging from hospitality to healthcare and manufacturing to high tech. He’s also delightfully addicted to 2-wheeled vehicles, classical music, and fine teas.