Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Carl Pritchard’s session, Those darn Risk Register boxes! What really goes in there?, being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.
Kyle: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s MPUG webinar, Those Darn Risk Register Boxes! What Really Goes in There? My name is Kyle, and I’ll be the moderator today. Today’s session is eligible for one PMI PDU in the technical category. The activity code for claiming that with PMI is on the screen now.
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Kyle: All right, we’ll go and get started. We’re very happy to welcome back Carl Pritchard today. Carl is a PMI, PMP, RMP, and is the author seven project management texts and co-produced The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP Exam. He is the US correspondent for the British project management magazine Project Manager Today and serves on the board of directors for projectconnections.com.
Kyle: He is also up-to-date on the new PMI, PMP prep course requirements and materials. So if you’re looking to work towards earning your certification, I would highly recommend checking out that offering on carlpritchard.com. With that said, welcome back, Carl. At this time, I’ll go ahead and pass it to you to get us started with today’s session.
Carl: Thanks so much. I really do appreciate it. Hang on a second. Let me just grab the right button here. There we go. I want to welcome you because I’m the risk guy. I’ve been PMI’s risk guy. There are about four of us who actually qualify as PMI’s official risk guys. It’s myself, a couple of guys named Dave and some other players that are out there.
Carl: But the reason that I care so much about this is people love the risk register. They have their own version of the risk register. Some people want to actually have their own forms and formats. Fine. That’s all good and wonderful, but the kicker is you’ll create a risk register and, a, no one ever reads it. B, it becomes on unused and unusable for future reference. Not only that, you’ve got an unused document, and you don’t even know what goes in those little boxes.
Carl: “Oh, sure I do, Carl. It’s just risk event. I know what a risk event is.” We’re going to talk about that today because, quite frankly, that’s where a lot of the headaches come from. One of the headaches stem from the fact that people honestly, genuinely don’t understand what goes in those silly little boxes and, frankly, where those boxes should be kept.
Carl: Here’s just a sample list. If you’re running this in Excel … And today we’re also going to talk about how you can set up your risk register in Microsoft Project. Oh, yeah, most people set them up in Excel. They select them as a connected document. But what they don’t do is they don’t actually leverage what I consider to be one of the most powerful opportunities at our disposal when it comes to the actual risk register itself. They really don’t. They don’t look into the crystal ball and say, “Oh, there are ways I could use this in the future, that I can use this for all those lessons learned and knowledge transfer, knowledge management.”
Carl: What can go in a fully fleshed out risk register, this is the jumping off point. Event, probability, impact, priority, overall risk. Okay. But look at the other ones there. Detectability, frequency, urgency.
Carl: If you’ve got a big, fat laundry list of risks, quite frankly, you’re probably dealing with the challenge of detectability. Yeah, you are. How detectable is the risk? Can you actually see it coming? Those kinds of things. Something that came out in PMBOK 5th Edition was the risk owner.
Carl: Now simple enough question: are you a risk owner? Well, let me suggest something to you if I might, and that is you’re possibly the risk owner, but you may not want to be the risk owner. By the way, in case you’re wondering, yeah, I’ll turn on my webcam from time-to-time just to let you know real human being, honest to gosh, somebody who’s just here doing the job.
Carl: But risk owner, you’re a bad, bad risk owner. “Carl, actually I’m very gifted in risk. I’m insulted by that.” No. No, no, no. Most of you are too blessed busy to be a risk owner. Risk owners, the ideal risk owners, junior. That’s right, junior. You’re looking for the junior people in your organization. You’re looking for those ones, “I just graduated from Stanford. Give me power.” It’s like, “Oh, junior. You’ve got no idea.”
Carl: Perfect risk owner. Why? Because they’re new. They’re fresh. They haven’t been around the organization forever. And to boot, they are teachable. They can actually learn a lot from being a risk owner. You, quite frankly, already have a lot of that information in your hip pocket. You really do.
Carl: So you don’t have to be thinking full blown, full time, “Oh, my gosh. What should go in there?” No. The reality is that you should be thinking about what can go in there that I need? Then we’re going to talk about where that actually goes. But we’re also going to walk through these boxes and talk about which ones are perhaps the ones that tend to hang us up a little bit.
Carl: Where can it go in there? Oh, where are we going to … ? “Oh, wait, Carl. This looks like that top fields of Microsoft Project.” Well, yes, it does, but this is a slightly modified view. It’s a slightly modified view. You’ve got things like risk event here. You’ve got risk event and you’ve got probability and impact and overall risk.
Carl: Many people never leverage the dozens of text fields, the dozens of numbers fields that are there in Microsoft Project. It doesn’t take much to actually just rename some of the text fields as things like risk event category. Things like that go a long way. “But, Carl, that [inaudible 00:08:04] linked inextricably from an activity.” Yes, they are, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Carl: A really nasty habit when it comes to risk management of identifying risks on a haphazard basis. We do that by virtue of getting the team together, having a kumbayah moment, getting them all pulled together and saying, “Hey, team. What risks do we face on the project?” and let the dance begin, because people will just toss that out, “Oh, we could get hit by the plague, COVID.” Yeah, great. Nobody saw that coming. But we could get hit by the plague. We could get hit by any one of a million different things.
Carl: The real challenge is, okay, great, have we actually done any ordered risk practice in order to get here, to good effective risk identification? That’s not an easy thing to do because if you ask people what are the risks, everybody has a nasty habit of going to their own personal experiences. They do. They have a nasty habit of going to their own personal experiences, and as such, it’ll be something broad, it’ll be something significant, but it’s still their own personal experience, and there’s not a lot of order.
Carl: Want to put order in your risk management practice? It’s here in the WBS. “Carl, I’m not seeing the WBS. I see the name of the activity. I see we’ve got that thing going. So we’ve at least got the names column.” Yeah, but if you have built this out within your project plan in MPP, one of the beauties of this is that you also have the ability then to ask the question, not what are the risks on the project, although you can ask the big risk question.
Carl: But you can also ask it on the micro level. What are the risks on this control account? What are the risks on this work package? What are the risks on this activity? The further down you drill, you’re actually asking about risk on specific work to be accomplished.
Carl: Think about that. By asking the question, what could go wrong in building a house? Pestilence. We could have the whole COVID thing. Permits. We might not get our permits. Oh, gee, the foundation could break.
Carl: Now by asking the question globally, we’re all over the map. But if we’re going down to the smaller, more micro levels of the WBS and asking the question.
Carl: For the activity excavate foundation what could possibly go wrong? Wow! Now it’s a much narrower field. It’s a much narrower field. To boot, it’s a much narrower field and we can capture it down here in the detail level of our work breakdown structure if we’ve created a risk view. If we’ve created a risk view. Then it’s just a matter of what goes in those darned boxes.
Carl: Well, events. Let’s talk about events. People love talking about what’s a risk event. For those of you who don’t recognize, that was the Titanic, God rest its soul. Take a look. What’s the big risk? “Iceberg.” No, iceberg was not the risk event. The risk event is we may strike an iceberg, ripping a hole in the hull and sending us to the bottom. “Oh, that’s a well-crafted event. You know what makes it a well-crafted risk event? It’s a sentence.”
Carl: Oh, no. I have no business being the risk guy, for those of you who are wondering, “How did he get to be the risk guy?” I’ve written two books on it and I’ve gotten a long way down that road. But I will also tell you I have no business being the risk guy. I was an English and journalism major in college. Oh, wow! Yeah, I was an English and journalism major in college. As a result, I learned the power of a full sentence, really. I’m a big believer that full sentences have power. They do.
Carl: So if we just say iceberg, well, what is it about the iceberg that gives it any kind of threat to power? What is it that actually makes it something we should worry about? We need to make sure that we have a common understanding as to what’s going on.
Carl: I was doing work with Southern California Edison at lovely Laughlin, Nevada a number of years back, and I asked the question. I said, “During one of your outages, what’s the big risk?” One guy raised his hand and I said, “Yeah?” He goes, “Weather.” Again, here we are, one word answer, bad answer.
Carl: Weather is not a risk. “Carl, apparently, you haven’t ever … ” No, I have never been. It depends on where you are, what that weather event is going to be.
Carl: I grew up in Ohio. We may have a tornado causing, “Oh, yeah, they have tornadoes in Ohio.” They do. Now I live in Maryland. The beauty of this is I live in the mountains of Maryland and, frankly, tornadoes are a pretty rare event.
Carl: By contrast, I used to live down in the DC Baltimore area and living down that way. One of the interesting things was weather. I was teaching a class in the middle of Hurricane Isabella. Oh, yeah. Some of you remember that little special event. Baltimore, underwater.
Carl: Oh, let’s see. What’s the risk event? What’s the bad thing that can happen, the impact it may cause? There may be a hurricane causing a storm surge to bury all the parking decks, and it did. It was amazing. But that’s a lot more specific when it comes to an event.
Carl: So you’ve got the bad thing and the nature of the impact. There may be a hurricane storm surge causing my car to be buried underwater. There’s a nice clean risk event. If you’re building one of these things out, give people a sample. Give them some idea of what it looks like and what’s actually there.
Carl: So we’ve got events in here, and you’ll notice just to the right of that probability impact. So we’re up to probability. This is an intriguing thing about on-the-job injury. On-the-job injury. Any of you who work in the utility industries, any of you who work in the construction industries, you know that that’s a very big deal. They get very exercised over the whole notion of just what exactly are the odds of being in an accident. What are the odds of being in an accident?
Carl: Well, for every 29 … And this is actually some guy’s study. Some guy actually took the time to pick this apart. For every 300 near misses … And if you’ve ever worked with these people who are safety-conscious, who are really safety gluttons, if you will, those folks, 300 near misses, they’d be freaking out. They would be freaking out. They can’t stand a near miss.
Carl: Their idea of a near miss is you did something stupid. Not dangerous, just stupid. I’ve done that. I actually got caught in one of these class I was doing for one of these organizations, putting my foot on a chair. Three people freaked out. “You’re not going to stand on that chair, are you?” I was like, “God, no.” “Okay, because if you did, that would constitute a near miss.” “Boy, you people are testy.” No, these people are safe.
Carl: Probability. We need to know just what are our terms for probability. We need to have a lexicon for probability, high probability. Now I love different terms I see for high probability, but my favorite of all time: more likely than not. I love that for high probability because it’s qualitative in nature, and yet you can push back. You can. You can push back.
Carl: You can push back and you can say, “Well, have we seen this happen on more than half of our projects?” “Well, yeah, more than half. Yeah.” “Okay. Then it is high.” But most people, if you push back when they say, “Oh, it’s a high probability,” and you go, “You mean to tell me this happens more than half the time we do this kind of a project?” “Well, not half.” “Then it’s not high.” Thank you.
Carl: A cosmetics firm up in Michigan, I love their term for low. Their term for low just really sold it for me. That was seen it happen here once. Now this stops people from weaving these tales of it could happen. I’ve seen it happen here once.
Carl: It’s been very interesting watching the Johnson & Johnson episode play out in the COVID-19 crisis. What’s been interesting about that is it goes to terminology. How low is low? Seen it happen here once. Well, that then gets down to, okay, where is here? Your state? Your office? Your job? Your workplace? Your little corner of a million people?
Carl: Males. For those of you who haven’t been following the news story about the vaccine causing blood clots, it does not cause them in men. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only has the potential to cause them in women, and even there, the odds of it happening to you are, well, less than one in a million. Wow! One in a million. Pretty low probability. Still not all the way out of the realm of probability, but pretty darned low.
Carl: When you get seen it happen here once, then it’s a non-deal. It’s low. But if we’ve seen it happen more than once, but it doesn’t happen more than every other time, then it falls into the moderate category, which I think is what has caused a lot of the reaction that we’ve seen to the vaccine and the fact that it’s causing blood clot.
Carl: You’ll watch that happen and you see that going on. “Well, it’s not all low. It’s a moderate probability using that scheme.” Fine. Have a scheme, have an approach. Have the language already preordained so that when you actually get to loaded into your risk register, you actually have meaning to that. Ditto for impact.
Carl: How high is high? Serious, consequential, disastrous. Oh, great, they’re describing adjectives with more adjectives. Help us. And people do. How high is high? That’s a big deal. How high is high? Quite frankly, it is whatever you deem it to be. But please, please, please do not use adjectives to describe other adjectives.
Carl: “How high is high?” “Oh, it’s very consequential.” “Okay. How consequential is consequential?” and we’re back in this horrible endless loop. Instead, find a way to translate that into, “Oh, it’s a true showstopper.” “Oh, that is high.” Yeah, a true showstopper. If you think about what a showstopper is, something would actually stop the project in its tracks. That’s a big deal.
Carl: Now a million and one things could cause that. Don’t care about the causes. What I’m looking at here are the impact. If we have a definition for how high high is, it should be tied inextricably to that impact column. It should be woven right in there.
Carl: We normally use the probability and the impact to get here, to priorities. Priorities. A lot of organizations like to have a top 10 list. They always love that. Top 10. I love it because it’s been about 15, 20 years, but I had a student who came up to me one day … And I love this because he walks up and he goes, “Carl, I know we’re supposed to be the top 10 list this afternoon. Just wanted to ask you a question. I didn’t want to ask it in front of the whole class.” I said, “Sure. What’s the problem?”
Carl: He said, “Top 10. You said we’re doing a top 10 list.” I said, “Yeah, that’s what we’re going to do.” He said, “Good, good. But can you tell me why?” “Because we want to have some priorities. We want to have some clarity on which are the ones we should worry about most.” He said, “Yeah, but why 10 is my question.” I said, “Well, what do you mean why 10?” He said, “Why 10? Why did we settle on top 10? Why not top 11 or top 8? I just want to know why it’s 10.” He said, “What’s the good mathematical reason behind 10?”
Carl: Crap, I had no idea. I really didn’t. So I went out and I did some homework. I actually had to go do homework and find out why do we do top 10 lists. And it’s not because of David Letterman. I know when I used to make the argument, I’d be like 10 fingers, 10 toes. Sounds good to me. It seems like the whole decimal system is rooted right there.
Carl: I had found out that’s not the case. Top 10 lists actually evolved in the Middle Ages. This is one of those how do you find this crap? That’s why God invented the internet. But the top 10 list is actually rooted in the Middle Ages in perfection, their understanding of perfection. Perfection.
Carl: Perfection was anything that integrated the four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. What? Yeah, those were the four elements in the Middle Ages: earth, air, fire, and water. Now each of those four elements, like today’s elements, just slightly different subset of elements, but each one of those elements was assigned a value.
Carl: Even in the Middle Ages, they did assign values to things, and they were respectively one, two, three, and four. Perfection was born out of anything that actually blended together all four of the basic elements. Well, one plus two plus three plus four is. 10. It’s perfect.
Carl: So if you’re wondering where top 10 lists actually come from or why we put them in our little priorities column when we’re building out our risk register, that’s how goofy it is. That’s how insane this all got rooted way back when, oh, let’s see, in the Middle Ages. That’s just plain crazy.
Carl: So we’ve got our priorities. Then we could lower the probability in the impact column and the priority column, and we can put them into that … What do you know? It’s back to our risk view in MS Project. We can incorporate that information there. We can assign them scores. We can have them multiply themselves out so they can actually give you scoring based on whatever the case may be.
Carl: But you’ve got your scores, you’ve got your criteria, and you’ve got all that information that’s once again embedded directly with whatever activity is home to that particular risk. Whatever activity is home to the risk, tada, you’ve arrived.
Carl: Detectability/frequency. These are some of the other more esoteric criteria that you might use to evaluate risk. Be careful, however, if you decide to incorporate detectability here, and the reason I say that is many people make the mistake of saying, “Oh no, that’s insanely detectable. You can spot it coming a hundred miles away. It’s a perfect 10.” Actually, it doesn’t work that way with detectability.
Carl: You might notice in my crystal ball here I’ve got deer. Those of you who’ve been in any of my presentations, you know I have a fear of deer. That’s because I’ve whacked one in my car, just once. However, I live now in the land of deer. I do. I live in a land where deer are everywhere. They are a legion.
Carl: I live on top of a mountain. I live on top of Haystack Mountain. Here up on top of the mountain, I can’t tell you we’ve got deer. We’ve got a lot of deer. We do.
Carl: Now that begs the question how detectable is a deer? How detectable is a deer? Think about that for a second. “Carl, that depends.” It sure does. It depends on your … Oh, let’s throw out a PMI term, shall we? Enterprise environmental factors.
Carl: Yeah, it does depend on your enterprise environment factors. Out on the open highway, I drive I-68 and I-70 quite a bit, driving down I-70, driving down I-68. They’re very good at keeping those roads nice and cropped. On a beautiful sunny day, you can actually see herds of deer tucked along the forest edge. You could see them out there. They are insanely detectable. When they’re insanely detectable, they are crazy low risk. Crazy low risk.
Carl: The most detectable, if you will, a perfect one on the 10 scale. Yeah, the most detectable are the one on the 10 scale. This is why you need to have some kind of a legend that goes with any risk register that you build, because otherwise people will go, “Oh, they’re crazy detectable, so it’s a perfect 10.”
Carl: No, it’s a perfect one, because if you multiply it into any kind of risk evaluation, on a failure mode/effect analysis, if you just multiply it in and you put it as a 10 for highly detectable, well, you’re going to skew that analysis because highly detectable is actually the opposite of being high risk. It’s actually low risk.
Carl: Up here on the mountain, the deer appear out of nowhere. All they do. It’s crazy. I told you I’ve only in my driving career whacked one dear. However, I did do some serious damage. Well, I didn’t do it, my dog did it, my lovely dog Mocha. Mocha did some serious damage to my car from the inside out.
Carl: There was a slowdown, saw the deer, saw them walking across the mountain. Waited for them to cross the street, new herd. You never go after just one. You wait for the other dear to follow, and, sure enough, there they were, three more. It was the second one that got Mocha’s attention, got my dog’s attention. And it began.
Carl: She was in the backseat and she did a running charge for the front seat. My dog broke my windshield from the inside. Yeah, from the inside. She cracked my windshield. She just put a big one of those nice little star like effect on the inside of my windshield courtesy of her bony little head. Unreal.
Carl: Detectability. It goes to can you see it coming and are your scoring it properly? For some risks, it’s a matter of how often do they hit us. Frequency. How often do they hit us? If you get hit once by a risk, is it a big deal? “It depends, Carl. It depends on what the impact is.” Thank you. Exactly.
Carl: Frequency. How often may this whack us or how often does this whack us? It’s funny because the first time, a lot of times, we actually … Well, we have just a bit of a problem reacting. Why, in my last house, it was 100-year-old farmhouse, and beautiful, by the way. Love that house. The floor was honey oak. Honey oak floors. They were just gorgeous. Except back by the kitchen, there was one place where it was a little filed up, a little bit marred. I would come out of the kitchen and I would rip holes in the bottoms of my socks.
Carl: If that happens to you once, is it a big deal? It just ripped a hole in a sock. Is that a big deal? Come up with your own answer on that. Is that a big deal? Good. So you’ve got an answer. Yeah. If it happens to you twice, is it a big deal? 10 times? 15 times?
Carl: It got down to the point where my wife was like, “Is there some reason you don’t have a single pair of socks that is not torn out in the sole?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s that splinter over by the kitchen.”
Carl: Frequency is generally an indicator of worse things yet to come. Indeed, for me, it was the splinter that went not into the sock, but into the sole of my foot. Oh, yeah, bad day. How many times did that happen before we actually finally repaired the floor? Once.
Carl: Frequency is one of those things where some risks … We can withstand frequency. We can handle it. If the risk is simply turn up your socks, most of us can live with that. Our significant others might not, but we can live with that.
Carl: Then, though, comes the challenge of how severe is it and what’s the impact and what’s the impact of multiple frequent events. You can roll in all of these different columns. You’ve got plenty of space with all those different text columns available to you in MS Project. So you can roll in a lot of the ones that PMI has identified as being a big deal.
Carl: Urgency. Urgency, by the way … And I use the giant asteroid splashing into the Earth, because this always makes me reflect on one of my favorite cinematic classics. Some of you may have seen this particular movie, spoiler alert ahead, and that is Armageddon, starred Bruce Willis. Yeah, his non-Oscar worthy performance for some reason. I have no idea why he didn’t snag the Oscar that year.
Carl: But urgency. Think about urgency. It was fascinating watching this movie is because they weren’t worried about the moment the asteroid impacted the Earth. No. They were worried about two days before that. Why two days before? Because at that point, that asteroid would have crossed something that … And I learned a lot about astrophysics from Billy Bob Thornton.
Carl: It would have actually crossed something out in space. It’s a dotted line, didn’t know what was there, called zero barrier. Zero barrier. If it crosses zero barrier, that’s what the world’s going to look like. Done. But you still have two days to party your brains out.
Carl: So urgency. Urgency, you need people to understand the definition is not how soon will it hit us, but how soon is the last point at which we can actually still do something about it if we crossed zero barrier, when we’ve actually gotten that far down the road.
Carl: So you’ve got all these different columns that you can put into your risk register. Perhaps the most important one is here: the risk response.
Carl: Now in the risk register, it should not be the simple terms from PMI. Avoid, accept, mitigate, transfer. No. I don’t want you to just use their terms. I want you to actually explain what the response is.
Carl: Build a moat, fill it with alligators, alligators with a history of violence. Yeah, now you’re talking. That’s a risk response, something that is clear in terms of here’s how we expect to respond. Here are the action items that are being added someplace else in the work breakdown structure, that are being added some place because the response … When it comes to your risk register, if you just put accept, we don’t even know if you mean active or passive acceptance.
Carl: If you don’t know the difference, passive acceptance is, “Hey, look, do me a favor. Just, well, suck it up.” Yeah, that’s passive acceptance. Active acceptance is where you come up with a game plan that if the risk event is realized, here’s what I want you to do.
Carl: But what goes into your risk register, the actual details. How will you make this response happen? How would you actually get it accomplished? If you’re going to minimize the probability of invaders, there. Instead of just saying mitigate, you want to say build that moat, fill it with alligators, and give them some description as to what exactly you mean by alligators, because there are little teeny alligators, like the ones in the sewers of New York, and there are great big ones like they catch all the time down in the Florida Everglades. Kind of scary stuff.
Carl: The risk owner. I mentioned this a little earlier. Look, look who I chose as the yes, good risk owner. Somebody very, very young, somebody who is almost completely organizationally baggage-free. Wow! How nice to be baggage-free. Some of us remember those days.
Carl: When you first got into the organization, they said, “Well, just get started. We’ll come down. We’ll will brief you on some of the things that you’re going to be involved in,” and get started. I don’t even know what I do for a living here. You remember those jobs. Honestly, the first couple of days on the job, you’re just shaking your head going, “Okay, I think I know what you want. I think I know where we’re going with this.” Well, great.
Carl: The nice thing about getting those people as risk owners is you give them a very direct mission. “Here’s what I want you to do, junior. I want you to keep track of the moat progress. Is the moat being put in? Has it been fully stocked with alligators? Are the alligators looking hungry and nasty?” These are all good things.
Carl: The good risk owner can keep track of all that stuff. The good risk owner is not somebody who’s senior in the organization and, quite frankly, doesn’t have the bandwidth. Just can’t possibly cope with everything that’s going to be expected of them in trying to get all this done.
Carl: So when it comes to risk ownership, we want to make sure we’re pegging the right people. We want make sure that we’ve got the right folks who are going to be doing this for us and with us.
Carl: Remember where all this is being loaded. It’s being loaded … Oops, sorry. Back here in our risk register that can be retained in MS Project. And so, look, how do we intend to respond? Strategy is not about … When you’re talking risk response, it is not about just mitigation. It is the actual here are the ways in which we expect this to happen. Here are the ways in which we actually expect this to happen and here is when we expect this to happen. When.
Carl: I hate it when I see a risk register that has no check-back date. 1946. Wow! 1946. That was a long, long time ago. It’s quite a few years ago. 1946. Interesting. Kind of interesting.
Carl: The Civilian Air Board, I think it was called, the CAB, which later became the FAA, actually came up with the big announcement, hey, you need to start announcing safety announcements on planes for passengers. Oh, yeah, that’s when it all began, 1946. They’ve been making announcements of every imaginable stripe since 1946.,
Carl: You know what they left out of this whole equation? Follow up. When are we going to look at this and say does this even be given to make sense? No. Nobody’s done follow up for decades, for three quarters of a century. Nobody has taken a look and said, “Hey, just a quick check here. Does any of this work?”
Carl: Well, we want follow-up dates. We want to know when we’re going to go back and revise, review, and in some cases get rid of our approach. There is no reason to hang onto approaches that don’t work.
Carl: Now some of you may have heard me say this before. In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat bottom cushion may be used as a flotation device. Remove the cushion from its frame, hug it to your chest, and exit as directed by your flight attendant. 46 years they’ve been making that announcement.
Carl: How many lives have been saved thanks to that announcement being in somebody’s risk register? How many lives? I want you to get an honest number in your head. I’ll wait. Got a number? Good. The correct answer is zero. Not a single life has been saved hugging a seat bottom cushion to your chest. None. 75 years of that announcement. That then begs the question: should we still be making the announcement? Wow! “Wow, Carl! It makes people feel better.”
Carl: Please, that was not … Hold on. Let me go back. Oh, let’s see. Was the risk we were mitigating people feeling better as they’re plunging perilously to their death? No, I don’t think that was the risk. I think the risk we were attempting to mitigate was and then you die. Yeah, I think that was it. People plunging perilously to their death and dying. I think that’s where a lot more of this went.
Carl: Indeed, when it comes down to outcome, we should identify … Until we actually know what the outcome is, put a date certain when we’re going to come back and revisit this, and then the outcome. Did it work? Did it save lives? Did it achieve its desired role in our risk strategy?
Carl: Now some of you when you’re driving use cruise control. Yeah, you do. You use cruise control. But I have a question for you about the vehicle you’re driving. 2011 or older? 2012 or newer? Think about that.
Carl: Okay, my car’s a little older, but my significant other’s car is not. Okay, great. 2012 or newer. Somebody 2011 and earlier was smart. Somebody was. They assessed the outcome of cruise control. Did it actually work? Did it achieve its desired outcomes? Did it actually keep people in the window of speed they wanted to maintain?
Carl: Indeed, what they found out, 2011 and older vehicles have what’s called dumb cruise control. Dumb cruise control. If you hit a watery patch on the highway, and you’ve got a 2011 or older vehicle and you’re on cruise control, your wheels will go, “Huh, we’re slowing down. No idea why we’re slowing down. But we’re on cruise control. We should speed back up.” Yeah, it’ll actually jam its foot on the proverbial gas for you as a helpful spirit.
Carl: And as your car spins out of control and is hit head on by a Peterbilt semi … Oh, yeah. By the way, that did happen to me. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I found out in 2012 or newer vehicles, you’ve got advanced cruise control. Why? Because somebody documented the outcome. Somebody captured the outcome. We need to document the outcomes. Did the strategy work? Did the strategy not work? Great question, by the way.
Carl: The whole challenge here is somebody was paying attention to the outcome. Gary asked a really good question, and there are two ways of fielding that. The question was how do you document multiple risks for a single task in Project?
Carl: Well, for one, most single tasks don’t have that many. But let’s say you’ve got two or even three. There are 30 text fields in Microsoft Project. You’ve got enough that you could actually do risk one, risk two, risk three and still not chew up half of the text fields you’ve got at your disposal. So that’s one option.
Carl: The other one that I’ve actually seen people do is just that. They have actually tried to capture the risks just in a single event field, but they’ll identify them much the way that our host actually did in terms of laying it out … I don’t know if you can see. I don’t think you can. But Kyle actually put in the chat Q1 from Gary. So it’d be R1, risk one, R2, risk two, R3, risk three.
Carl: You could put a lot of stuff into that event field. You’ve got plenty of room there to actually capture a lot of text data. So you could do it either of those ways, either by creating additional columns or by simply within the existing single column simply identified as R1, R2, R3. That would be a way that you could actually do it. Then flag the other information. Outcome would be O1, O2, O3, and so on. Good question.
Carl: First steps, look for one-word answers. If people are giving you one-word answers, iceberg, weather, stop them. Stop them. There is a lot of room in those fields. There’s a lot of room for a lot of data in those fields. Quite frankly, the clear description of the risk event should be just that.
Carl: If you really are hell bent for leather on using Excel for this, let me also stress to you, fine, then link them into Excel so that if they change in the Excel spreadsheet, they change here. Paste link is a powerful tool here, and you can do it.
Carl: The reason I ultimately want to have them, though, in Microsoft Project is pretty darn powerful, and that is the project’s over. You’re finished. Yay! You survived. Yay! And you did well.
Carl: If you have captured all of this information in your MPP file, where do you get the baseline MPP file for your next project? “Carl, actually I just cut and paste. I normally just steal my own files.” Tada! What happens when you actually just steal your own file, rename everything? You don’t realize you’re even doing it at first. But because that risk view is tucked neatly in the background, tada! Miracles start to happen.
Carl: The beauty of it is all of this data is now at your disposal, not just the list of tasks, control accounts, work packages, that stuff. That’s not the only stuff that gets migrated over. What gets migrated over is all that history.
Carl: Who are my project owners? Who actually knows about this stuff? Who watched this all the way to fruition? Who saw this come in all the way to the end? And the fact that somebody was keeping an eye on it is really just a nice thing because now you have the facility and the ability to actually leverage that information going forward.
Carl: A lot of organizations are just exercised about their lesson learned. Really need a good lessons learned profile, need a good lessons learned register, need a good lessons learned repository. Okay, great, here you go. This is where it happens organically rather than just creating a separate set of documentation.
Carl: If it’s already built into your project file, it’s got a home. It’s got a place where it can actually function. It’s got some place where you can actually go back and say, “Oh, I remember when she worked here. Yeah, she was very green at the time.” And the fact of the matter that if you are looking for, if you are keeping eyes open for the green people, then good for you.
Carl: Now let’s go back to the whole notion of if something doesn’t have an effect, your seat bottom cushion. It’s time to let that sucker go. We should have heard that announcement for the last time 20 years ago, and we still haven’t. Oh, by the way, I know there’s at least one of you going, “Carl, what about the miracle on the Hudson, Sully Sullenberger and all that?” They had the inflatable vests. They did not require their seat bottom cushions.
Carl: Well, that takes all the fun and the mystery out of life. Yeah, it does. But if something doesn’t have an effect, challenge it.
Carl: There’s an interesting aspect of what PMI now considers servant leadership. Servant leadership. PMI is very, very exercised about the whole notion of we should all be servant leaders. One of the keys to effective servant leadership is to challenge the status quo. Challenge the status quo. If something genuinely doesn’t work, challenge it. If something is having the opposite effect of what’s intended, challenge it.
Carl: My mother-in-law Carol, lovely woman … A guy who actually likes his mother-in-law. My mother-in-law is a really nice lady. But when we went with her to buy her car, she was tough as nails, because she was buying a 2010 Honda CRV. Honda CRV. She was talking to the guy at the dealership. They had pretty much made the deal.
Carl: He said, “Well, Mrs. Adams, we’ll bring your car around. It’ll only be a couple of minutes. Don’t worry about a thing. We’re going to have it all ready for you.” She said, “Oh, before you bring it out, make sure they disable the driver’s side airbag.” “Oh, Mrs. Adams, you don’t seem to understand. That’s a safety device. We never want to disable safety device.”
Carl: She looked him square in the eyes, him at 6’2″, her at 4’10”. Yeah, my mother-in-law’s relatively diminutive. She’s 4’10” and weighs about 100 pounds. Wow! Yeah, one of the little people.
Carl: Now why did she want him turning off the air bags? Because in 2010, they’d have killed her. The guy was like, “Mrs. Adams, you really don’t want to do that,” and she was like, “No, this actually would have the opposite effect of what you intend.” He bought into it. He understood. He accepted the argument, and they disabled her air bags.
Carl: Now she’s never been in an accident. She still has the Honda, by the way. The interesting aspect of this is that she still has the Honda. It is still what a lot of people would say, “Oh no. It’s not protected.” Actually, her life is better protected than most people of her size and stature, because she recognized the effect it could have, and she challenged it. Challenging the status quo is a big part of being an effective risk manager.
Carl: So some food for thought on the risk register, on the risk register. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments, want a copy of MPP file, there you go. That is my email address, email@example.com. That is my cellphone number. So, vanity, thy name is Carl. But that is my cellphone number. That is my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl: Anything we’ve talked about here today, pop me an email. Anything you’re thinking, “I’d like to do that, but I’m not sure that would work as well as this,” okay, pop me an email. If you just need a risk management shoulder to cry on, or you have a question about the RMP, or the PMP for that matter, pop me an email.
Carl: I will always, underscore, underscore, underscore, always get back to you within 24 hours. Always. Invariably, somebody will send me an email going, “Carl, I sent you an email and I never got an answer from you,” I’m in your spam folder, just so you know.
Carl: I got a last question here. Should risks be reassessed on a timely basis? How often? When change is planned … This is actually a PMP question. Change is planned, when change occurs, and at regular intervals. “Well, that’s what I’m asking, Carl. What’s the regular interval?”
Carl: Regular interval, at its very shortest, should be half the project. So if you’re working on a six-week project, three weeks in. Working on a 10-week project, five weeks in. Once you start spanning it across quarters, though, then you should be looking at roughly a monthly basis. Once you start spanning it across years, you should be looking at it on a quarterly basis. That should get you pretty well-covered.
Carl: So you know where to find me, you who I am. Anything I could do to facilitate my good pals at MPUG, just scream real loud. Now I’ll pass this back over to Kyle. Kyle?
Kyle: Thank you very much, Carl. We really appreciate you taking the time to present to the MPUG community today. It was great to have you. Thanks again.
Carl: Thank you.
Kyle: The screenshot icon at the top of the view window, for anyone watching live, you can click that, it’ll take a screenshot of Carl’s contact info there, if you’d like to save that for later. I’ll also pull up the PDU information for anyone claiming this session. It’ll be eligible for one technical PDU. The code should be coming up on your screen now, eligible for one technical PDU.
Kyle: If you missed any of today’s session, would like to go back and review anything that Carl shared, the recording will be posted at mpug.com later today. You’ll receive an email in just a couple hours with the link to that. MPUG members have access to our full PDU eligible library of on-demand webinars on mpug.com.
Kyle: We also have some great sessions coming up on the calendar here. Next week, Nenad Trajkovski will join us for our session on How Should a Project Manager Organize their Workday Every Day and Where Does MS Project Fit Into This? That’ll be a 45-minute session next Wednesday.
Kyle: The following week, Dharmesh Patel will join us for a session on Tips, Click, and Tricks to Boosting the Effectiveness of Your Microsoft Teams Meetings.
Kyle: So those are both on the calendar, along with many others. So be sure to check those out and save your seat to join us for those sessions.
Kyle: That does it for today. So once again, thank you so much, Carl. We really appreciate it. Thanks to everyone that joined us live or those of you watching this on-demand. We hope you have a great rest of your day. We’ll you see back next week for our next live session. Thanks.