Risks and Opportunities

As we discussed in a previous post, risks are one of the staples of project management these days.  It is seen as an indispensable part of running projects, programs, and organizations in general.  It is part of PMBOK, PRINCE2 and a host of other project management methods.
Anecdotally we’ve all seen risks now being frequently addressed in projects. (At Zenkara, we’re doing a followup survey of risk management use here.  We conducted the original a decade ago, and we’re interested to validate current perceptions)

While risk management deals with potential problems, one of the less frequently implemented aspects of risk is that of potential positive events.  When implemented these are often called ‘opportunities’.  They are the potential positive incidents, situations that might be brought about given a specific situation and mitigation/enabling actions (or they might just accidentally happen).

Some examples might be:

  • Potential saving with not everyone needing as detailed training as planned
  • Negotiating discounts due to bulk or alliances purchases
  • Accelerating the decision on some technical aspect to shave weeks from the schedule
  • Conducting activities in parallel that were originally planned in sequence

Many of these opportunities may be identified throughout the life of a project, but unless they are explicitly identified and actions taken to secure them, they are often just wasted/unfulfilled potentials.

Opportunities can be identified at the same time ie. during the initial risk assessment workshops and can be used as a basis for motivating risk sessions: “we’ve got these negative potentials, what can we think of that will help us save or improve things?”.  It’s sure a lot more motivating that just thinking and talking about risks alone.

Opportunities may require people to make some adjustments in their perception and ideas of potential savings in money, time, quality.  Most people are just concerned about delivering what is required – they may have an ideas about some things that could go better than planned, but unless they make it explicit there’s only a low chance of it occurring.

Opportunities can be handled by the same mechanism (risk assessment forms, register, etc) and provide a good balance for projects.

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