Autopsy for Dead Risk Responses: Discussions in Development Projects

September 18, 2013 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Risk Response & Control

Autopsy for Dead Risk Responses: Discussions in Development Projects
By Gratien Gasaba

Risk management is an important aspect of project management, for implementing a project is about taking risks. Project risks management is rooted in the belief that project managers need to influence both internal and external factors in such a way that they contribute to the achievement of the project purpose. As such, risk management is a rational process of situation analysis, decision-making with the climax on taking action to mitigate the impact of threats or increase the probability of opportunities. In my last 10 years in development projects, I observed how risk responses are reached, how they are implemented, what happened when they are implemented and tried to understand why some risks responses work well while other don’t.
Some of the risk responses look like dead bodies. In the course of the project implementation there was no signs of effect of those risks responses on desired results. As I dug deep in the analysis I found myself carrying out a kind of autopsy to find out the cause of those deaths. Below is what may be the case in development projects.

  1. Lack of Consistency

    Lack of consistency may be found on some risk responses. This is the case for risk responses that are in contradiction with some key aspects of the project context. A project is not built in vacuum. It is developed and implemented in a context where care must be taken on all components of that context. In a development project, inconsistent risks responses are those that are in contradiction with some assumptions which are still kept true. Most of these risk responses normally die as soon as you try to implement them.

  2. Lack of Soundness

    In development projects, it is not unusual to notice risk responses that are based on false assumptions. The lack of soundness increases when some actors involved in risk management cannot be objective in their analysis. Some stakeholders may not be able to separate their personal interests from the overall interest of the project. In this case, truth is flawed and measures are taken on flawed truth. Most of these risks management measures will have adverse effects ranging from poor performance to project failure.

  3. Incompleteness

    Completeness is a very important attribute of good risk responses. Completeness of risk responses refers to the fact that a set of taken measures is sufficient to drive the execution of the project to the achievement of desired results. Incomplete risk responses system will behave like an undernourished child. This situation may lead to persistence of risks that were supposed to be alleviated or eliminated.

  4. Wrong or no risk response owner assigned

    A risk response may be sound, complete and consistent with the project context. But, if nobody or a wrong person is assigned for its implementation, it will not make a change. It is always advised to make sure there is someone who will implement each risk response and that he/she is the right person to do it.

  5. Unjustness of suggested response

    Project risk responses must be based on the justness principle. The risk response must be justifiable to key project stakeholders. It must be acceptable and appropriate where it has to be applied. Therefore, the effort must be taken to justify risk responses. Unjustness of the risk responses will lead to its refusal by stakeholders which in turn will lead to the silent death of that risk.

  6. Unaffordable risk responses

    Affordability of risk responses is a must. It doesn’t make sense to develop a risk response which is not cost-effective. My undergraduate “Educational Planning” Professor used to remind us this important question: “why planning things for what you have no means for implementation or for which there is no value for money”? Unaffordable risk responses remain as paperwork and if they are implemented they result in tears.

  7. Ineffectiveness of suggested risk response

    Risk responses have to be effective. They must help to make change. A risk response whose implementation leaves a status quo is not worth the project time and resources. Ineffectiveness of risk responses comes from poor risk analysis. A risk analysis that does not grasp the real risk probability and impact may lead to ineffective risk response. Ineffective risk responses look like those poor quality seeds that never germinate and finally die.

  8. Anachronistic risk response

    Who cannot be disturbed by a project team member who, during a project progress review meeting, suggests the use of the last year’s assumptions, which at that time helped the project to evolve towards success, but which are no longer true? Anachronistic risk responses are those that are implemented far after the occurrence of targeted risks. These kinds of risk responses are similar to an immunization thought when the child is already attacked by that disease.


It is always a good thing to find measures to mitigate project risks. But suggested risk responses must be effective to make positive change. In some cases it is advised to test proposed risk responses to ensure they will work. Test of justness, affordability, desirability and effectiveness may help to judge whether the proposed risk responses will work or not.

Gratien Gasaba, PMP, is an experienced project manager with 10 years of experience in project and program management. He has also a consulting experience in business plan development and project evaluation. Gratien Gasaba has a good working experience with both national and international experts in areas of organizational capacity development, governance, health and agriculture. Gratien has a Master of Arts in Development Administration and Management (MADAM), from Kampala International University.

2 people have left comments

Good article, however in response to your last point (8), I believe that the use of historical risk response on a project can have positive effects on a current/future project if a similar risk is perceived. Building a risk register and lessons learned log from previous experience can help form the beginning of a mitigation plan for future projects. This helps to improve consistency, efficiency of both the project and risk management strategy.

This is only effective if implemented at the beginning of the a new project to help mitigate that risk from occurring and only when appropriate in the context of the current project.

Zoe Reape wrote on September 18, 2013 - 4:26 am | Visit Link

Thanks Zoe for the comments.
Total agree with on the use of lessons learned/historical risk response as long as the underlying assumptions are still valid.

Gratien Gasaba wrote on September 18, 2013 - 6:30 am | Visit Link

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