Risk Mapping to Primary Constraints: Time 2 – Mapping the Project Schedule

Continuing from our last article in the July 2013 issue of the Project Post-Gazette, we are developing the steps needed to map our risks to the constraints that each and every project is subject to just as we are all subject to the laws of nature: physics, mathematics, cosmology, etc. The activities contained below will assist the scheduling team with their understanding of how schedule components of tasks, resources, calendars, and assignments are subject to and are the source of many project related risk potentials. It is the proactive scheduling team that realizes that “It is better to mitigate a risk than to attempt to survive an issue.”  CJP Stoneman.

In the next steps following from the July issue, the Risk Manager (RM) along with the risk owner or the risk subject matter expert (SME), and the project scheduler using the aspects of quantitative analysis are working towards the adjustment of the schedule to account for the risk potential’s impact to the project timeline. Each step will increase the clarity of the risk’s impact on the non-risk adjusted schedule thereby illustrating the impact that each risk can have on the project’s ability to produce “fit-for-use” deliverables – the primary goal of every project.

Precursor: using the risks currently identified in the risk register, consider if all schedule risks have been completely and sufficiently identified. If not, hold some risk identification workshops with the appropriate project stakeholders with the defined goal of uncovering all the risk potentials that could have an impact on the schedule. Remember the concept of “rolling wave planning” or progressive elaboration (See this month’s article on the topic – put link here) in achieving the correct level of details and risk categorization.

Step 1.  Accomplish Schedule Impact Analysis: determining the risk probability of occurrence (RPO) for each risk potential.

Parameters and determinations to complete step 1:

  • non-risk adjusted schedule,
  • risk register,
  • lessons-learned based duration estimates,
  • historical archives duration estimates, and
  • SME duration estimates

Note: be careful when using the 3 point estimation method as described below since the values of the three estimates to be used in the calculations may vary in what is considered pessimistic or optimistic. For example, in most cases the parameters of cost are worse if larger and better if smaller when the perspective is from the funding source; however, the opposite is true is viewed from the work effort perspective. The same holds true when considering the source and bias of a duration estimate: from the perspective of the project sponsor, shorter durations are better while longer is pessimistic, but to the resource performing the task, the opposite rings true.

This leads one to the recommendation that all estimates should be provided with the following context:

  1. The estimate should always be given in a range, never a value with a plus/minus condition,
  2. The assumptions and constraints should be clearly listed and described, and
  3. The source of estimates should be listed along with their indicated biases.

Sample Risk Adjusted RPO:

Risk ID

Risk Potential

Probability Estimating (3 Point Method)

Risk Adjusted RPO

Pessimistic Value
(SME)

Most Likely
Value
(Historical)

Optimistic
Value
(Monte Carlo)

12 Unstable Requirements

0.90

.60

.25

0.592

20 Testers unavailable

0.75

.50

.20

0.492

Step 2.  Determine the duration estimate using the 3 point method for each schedule task impacted by the risk potential.

Sample 3 Point Duration Estimate:

Schedule

Duration Estimates

3 Point Duration Estimate

Schedule Task ID

Task Name

Duration Remaining (days)

Start

Finish

Risk ID

Pessimistic
(SME)

Most Likely
(Historical)

Optimistic
(Model)

005

Requirements Analysis

100

08 Jul 13

12 Oct 13

12

1.20

1.0

0.77

99.5

024

Perform Smoke Testing

20

01 Dec 13

31 Dec 13

20

1.75

1.0

.80

21.8

 

If you have already calculated refined duration estimates then the table above is not needed; however, if the duration estimate of Task 005 of 100 days was simply a guess, the table above shows how the refinement of the value was researched and determined. The above table is showing non-risk adjusted duration estimates.

Step 3. If the risk potential triggers into reality, what is the impact in time (additional days) that this risk will cause to our task under scrutiny?

Sample Risk Adjusted Duration Impact:

Risk ID

Risk Potential

Impact Estimating (3 Point Method) in time
(additional days)

3 Point Adjusted RCI (additional days to finish)

Pessimistic Value
(SME)

Most Likely
Value
(Historical)

Optimistic
Value
(Modeling)

12

Unstable Requirements

60

42

20

41.3

20

Testers unavailable

15

8

4

8.50

Remember, the RCI is always expressed in terms of the risk potential’s primary constraint impact. For example in dealing with scope related risk potentials, the impact for a risk is always an increase in scope (scope creep); for time it is an increase in project completion duration; for cost it is an increase in budget. However, for quality, the opposite impact exists: lower quality is a primary impact while increasing quality would be positive and thus, not a risk impact (in most cases).

Step 4.  Risk Adjust your schedule, and update the risk register.

Determine the Critical Path or Chain (as you apply to your project) those tasks for which the risk-adjusted impact puts the current project finish date in jeopardy. From the table above, Critical Path tasks are those that are marked in red.

The risk adjusted impact of Risk #12 is now: 99.5 + 41.3 = 140.8 days if risk #12 triggers into reality. This additional time impact would need to be addressed if the extra 41.3 days now puts this task onto the critical path or chain thus impacting the expected project completion date.

Parameters and determinations for step 4:

  • Determine the prioritization of the risks to reduce or if possible eliminate the risk using REV (risk equivalent value) as primary prioritization profiling to maximize the project’s limited mitigation resources.
  • Determine which risks will impact the schedule the most – this is the impact of the risk prioritization process.

By mapping identified risks to your project schedule, determining the probability and impact determinates, and assessing the time vector, the PM will now be in proactive mode by allowing the scheduling team to rank the project risks quantitatively, not just guessing on how a risk potential could impact the project timeline. Projects that do not risk adjust the project schedule are just waiting for a train wreck to happen and then try to recover from the crash.  Any diverging of the tracks (risk adjusting) will put the PM and the project team in a proactive mode before the risk triggers into an issue and the team is reduced to managing the project in a reactive mode.

Completing the process of risk adjustment also requires the understanding that in order to mitigate any risk potential which is an amount of uncertainty of outcomes, the project team must be able to define and measure quantities that will provide an additional amount of relevant information for which an Equivalent Value of Information (EVI) can be determined. This concept is discussed in another article in this month’s PPG found here.

Remember, risk management is all about the management of possibilities and uncertainties. A skilled PM and scheduler must be able to deftly understand and discuss the disciplines of statistics, probabilities, and information theory if they are to accomplish the goal of improving their decision making abilities – the only proven method for raising one’s project success rates!

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