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