“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration.”
— Steve Mariboli

When working on high-importance projects, I often have people tell me about various risks. I ask about the severity of the risk and I generally get answers such as “high impact”. I do have people translate that risk into more specifics such as “how many schedule weeks will the project be impacted?”

We can do better than that.

Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for an appointment is an unusual place to be inspired but as time ticked on I became bored and was reading the walls.

Up there next to the ‘Name That Rash’ poster was the most useful Pain Assessment Guide I have seen.  Instead of just “it hurts a lot” or degrees of frowny faces, there was a scale with tangible descriptions. It ranged from no pain to things like “the pain interferes with concentration” and all the way up to “bed rest is required.”

This led me to start to develop a project risk scale so I can have more tangible discussions with project leaders.  

Here is my first pass of Alan’s Project Risk Scale.

  1. Very low impact:
    If we have the wrong approach, one person can fix it in a couple of days.
  2. Low impact: 
    If we have the wrong approach, it will take a few of us less than a week to fix.
  3. Medium impact:
    If we have the wrong approach, it means a big redesign, and likely significant delay to schedule.
  4. High impact:
    This might not work the way we want ever.We may have to change customer expectations of what they can get.
  5. Very high impact:
    There is a significant safety risk with this approach.

Would this kind of scale help you with getting the language or risk be more tangible?  Let me know at [email protected] 

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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