Agile development · Risk · Techniques

A risk register for lazy project teams

I told someone this article was already up on my blog and then realised I never got around to publishing it. Sorry about that.

Successful projects are generally successful because of the way they managed their risks; so I generally try to hire lucky project managers and surround them with a team of people who have (or are due for) some good karma, in order to avoid having bad things happen on the project.

But sometimes that is not enough, so I like to put in place risk registers, risk and innovation meetings and a bunch of other things to make sure I am managing my risks effectively.

But sometimes that is too much overhead for a small team to bear, so what can the team do that is easy, yet still reasonably effective?

What sometimes helps is a minimalist version of a risk register that the team can use as part of their existing workload ragther than as a separate activity.

Assuming the team have some kind of regular planning meeting (sprint planning, iteration planning, production support team meeting or something), then they can sneak a discussion of risks into those meetings.

But risks generally eventuate, mature or even fade away between meetings rather than waiting for a meeting to change their status.

Just as dangerously, risks often hide themselves among un-verified assumptions and uncommunicated decisions.

So I am hoping that this risk register will help those teams that are on projects too small or relaxed to do hard core risk identification, analysis, assessment and treatment.

2011-06-24 10.52.13

All the team needs to do is

  1. Find a spot on the wall.
  2. Draw a table on the wall to capture the risks and similar concerns
    • Enter anything they think they should worry about (risks, open issues, new questions or potential concerns). The best approach is to use post-it notes so you can move them easily and gravity can make some disappear (er .. that is to say the best approach is to use cards that can be moved but won’t fall off the wall).
    • When a risk or issue is closed the team move it to the second row of the table – the “done” row.
  3. Next the team add a table for decisions and assumptions that are made during the week.
    • When a decision is made that others might need to know about, add it to the first column of the table.  Then put N/A in the second column if the decision does not have to be validated or communicated to someone else. Or put the person/group with whom the decision should be validated.
    • If you or one of the team need to make an assumption during the week as part of the work you are doing, add it to the register in the same way that you enter decisions.
    • If and when a decision or assumption is validated then put a tick next to it or draw a line through it.
  4. Go through the register as a team when you have your meetings and confirm that everyone knows what risks, issues, decisions etc were added or moved during the week.

You might decide do a whole lot more to manage risks on your projects. Whether or not you do though, you might like to consider this humble register as a lazy (or low maintenance) way to maintain a focus on risks without incurring a lot of overhead.


3 thoughts on “A risk register for lazy project teams

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