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Risk assessment is an important part of every project plan and the quality of these assessments defines how well prepared your project is for the likely problems that can arise. Most PMs will have their own favorite risk assessment techniques that they use for every project or their organization might prefer certain formats over others. However, it can often be good to try out something new, not just because it might perform better in a particular situation but also as it will expand your knowledge of risk assessment techniques in general.

With 2019 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to try something new when it comes to risk assessment. Here are some great techniques to consider.

Scenario Analysis

Like a storytelling improv, Scenario Analysis sees you pitch a situation, for example a client suing your organization for millions of dollars. Then you ask your team to analyze the scenario and work out how it might have happened and what the solutions to it are. Participants will also judge the chances of this situation occurring.

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

FTA sees you place one event at the “top of the tree”, then work backwards from that to find out how it got there. At each level of the tree you are looking for a deeper cause, so you will use brainstorming initially for the most obvious causes and then deeper analysis of each of these to determine what their source is.

Horizon Scanning

Horizon scanning is effectively an intelligence gathering exercise for risk assessment. It involves picking up on the “weak signals” of information about societal and technological changes in your immediate field. These can include nearly anything related to your project and are gathered and constantly assessed for their possible impact on it.

Root Analysis

When problems occur, root analysis is the process of getting to the core of why it happened. This information is then used to identify risk factors inherent in your project as well as preventing them from arising in the future.

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This is a structured brainstorming technique which strives to maximize the potential of the participating group, rather than it being taken over by a few louder voices. In its most common form, 6-3-5, it involves 6 participants, who each write down 3 ideas in the space of 5 minutes before passing their sheet to the next person. In terms of pure numbers this process would generate 108 ideas in 30 minutes which is a great starting point for identifying risks.

Structured What-If Technique (SWIFT)

In this structured, team-based risk assessment technique, participants are given a series of “prompts” for which they would write down what they believe would happen if, for example, wages were cut across the board by 10% or the whole team had to work 8 hours weekly overtime for a few weeks to fix one person’s mistake.

Historical Research

A big benefit of working for larger organizations is that they have probably run projects similar to yours before. Look through the company archives or ask senior executives to find out about risks that were encountered with such projects and assess how possible they seem now.

Also published on Medium.

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