I don’t quote Augustine Law (XLV for the truly keen) very often – but here goes, “the unexpected should have been expected” – I guess this shows that nothing is new – but it does make me think.
It really should ring some bells for NGO Project Managers (NGOPMs – could this be a new acronym? – every now and again, the urge to acronym takes hold). How often have we looked back at a project and thought – “I should have seen that coming”. It does, in fact surprise me how often this happens – so why? What can we do? When I look at risk – if it’s mentioned at all in NGO projects – there appear to be two schools of thought:
School 1 – the “masters of disaster” – for them risk is like the a Sunday outing for the riders of the apocalypse – death, plague, famine etc. coming to a screen near you. Statements say things like, “severe famine may impact on the project”. Well, I never – there’s a turn up for you. The emergency brigade often seem to see the world like this, statements are often prefaced with, “when I was in Juba…”
School 2 – the “politicians” – these guys are true masters at hedging their bets with meaningless statements such as “politicial instability may impact on deliverables” – assuming of course that there were some deliverables. HRI’s Patricia – http://handrelief.blogspot.com/2010/10/patricia-and-horse.html is usually a practised exponent … 23 year old expats can pontificate about political risk to their heart’s content as they sip imported South African wine and hold forth on national politics despite not speaking any of the local language (well other than to order in restaurants…).
Both of these are excuses and quite innovative ways of avoiding accountability – they don’t have anything to do with risk. What can you do about famine, plague or political instability….? So when you don’t do anything and it all goes tits up, well, never mind. No, I forget – we “MONITOR”. We always say this… what does it mean – watch TV? I think – no surprise here – that this is all very lazy thinking.
Project level risk is about the risk to the project itself. It is specific, not generic and so risk needs to be expressed in terms of its impact on the project – meaning its impact on time, quality and/or cost. If we can be specific about the impact of the risk on the project, we can then say how likely the risk is and how severe it’s impact. This way we can categorise it and then have a fighting chance of actually doing something about it.
Always assuming that we actually do want to do something about it! Now pass me another G&T…