We spend so much effort managing threats to our projects that it can be very easy to forget that uncertainty can also benefit us. Spend any time reading up on project risk management and you’ll learn about opportunities and the different was of responding to them.
But how easy is it to put that theory into practice?
I’ve written before that it can be very challenging for project managers or team members who have been used to looking at the glass as being half empty to reframe their thinking that it is actually still half full. The more experience they’ve gained, the more likely they are to focus on what could go wrong instead of being open to what might go better than expected. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider that Murphy could be the patron saint of project managers!
If a team isn’t actively looking for opportunities, they are unlikely to recognize them or even if they do, that realization may dawn too late for them to be able to do anything about it.
So can we help teams proactively identify opportunities knowing that they are predisposed to ignore them?
It is very common for companies to create threat identification checklists based on lessons learned from completed projects and other sources of wisdom of the organization. While there might not be as many organizational process assets to provide input into the creation of a checklist, you could structure it with the same categories as a threat identification checklist and brainstorm some common questions for each category.
You could also consider creating one or more fishbone diagrams replacing problems at the head of the fish with common types of opportunities.
Finally, assumptions analysis can help us identify opportunities as effectively as it can threats. For example, if we’ve assumed that a given activity is particularly challenging and will take many weeks to complete, how might we identify and exploit the reality that it is a lot easier than expected?
“Diligence is the mother of good luck” – Ben Franklin