Posts Tagged With: Project management terms

It’s time for RAID logs to evolve!

When documents are used to track project information, a common approach is to create a consolidated workbook in MS Excel for tracking risks, actions, issues and decisions. This is usually referred to as a RAID log.

The benefit of this approach beyond having the information in a convenient, centralized location is that there are logical relationships between these disparate elements which can be easily reflected if they are consolidated. For example, negative risks which have not been successfully avoided could be realized as issues. In turn, issue resolution might be done via actions. And finally, actions may require formal decisions to be taken.

But is there an opportunity to consolidate additional list-based project data elements for greater benefit, and if so, what are some good candidates?

We frequently hear about the need to capture assumptions made by stakeholders when planning our projects so that they can be validated over time. A benefit of having the assumptions consolidated in the same workbook is that part of a regular risk register refresh could include a quick walkthrough of those assumptions which have not been validated yet to see whether any new risks can be identified or whether information regarding existing risks should be updated.

It’s rarely ideal to wait till the very end of a project to harvest knowledge. But if you choose to identify lessons regularly over the life of your project, they’ll have to be captured somewhere. As issues are often a good input into lessons identification, having the ability to link issues to a lesson will simplify the process of understanding the context behind the lesson. Another benefit of this approach is that since it’s common practice to review issues and actions in regular team meetings, having lessons also available in the same document might encourage team members to review them and identify new ones.

Finally, let’s consider stakeholders. We know that it’s a good practice to identify stakeholders early in your project, analyze them according to their impact, interest and influence, and use that information to form your engagement and change strategies. Stakeholders will be closely associated with all of the other data elements we’ve looked at so it’s likely worth including your stakeholder register too.

So if your organization doesn’t have a central project management information system, why not use a RADIALS log in place of a traditional RAID log!

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A risk management ode to project managers!

Father’s Day might be a holiday which is much newer than the project management profession itself, but let’s not miss the opportunity to celebrate the many ways in which project managers help their projects succeed through effective risk management.

F is for Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, which can be a mouthful to say,

A is for avoidance to hold critical risks at bay,

T is for risk transfer for which we’ll have to pay,

H is for human bias, which can stand in risk management’s way,

E is for expected monetary value analysis, which calculates outcomes come what may,

R is for reserves, which prevents realized risks from ruining our day,

S is for simulations like Monte Carlo for us to play,

D is for Delphi where estimators go to pray,

A is for assumptions which come in many shades of grey, and

Y is for yellow which our project dashboards should never display.

Happy Father’s Day to all!


Categories: Project Management | Tags: , | 1 Comment

So what’s in your company’s project management dictionary?

dictionaryWe often joke that the only correct answer to a project management question is “It depends!“. Many of us would also agree that the right approach to deliver a project is one which is tailored to fit its context, complexity and the culture in which it will be managed.

But there is still value in establishing some standards for project management. One component of such standards is a set of operational definitions. Such definitions might constrain the degree of flexibility which a project team possesses but will support governance and oversight through increased consistency and predictability.

Like everything else, operational definitions need to be established selectively.

Let’s consider a team’s degree of confidence in its estimates. A project funding policy might require that team submitting detailed estimates should have a confidence of ±5% but what does that really mean? Until the project is over, we won’t know and punishing the team for being of that range will be a Pyrhhic victory. If a sponsor is putting undue pressure on a team to deliver, they are going to be hesitant to declare that they have a low degree of confidence and will value short term peace over long term pain.

But what happens if we don’t develop operational definitions for the following terms?


PMI and other associations have provided criteria for differentiating projects from other activities (e.g. unique endeavor, start and finish) but these criteria are insufficient for implementation purposes. Without establishing some quantitative measures (e.g. effort, cost) to accompany the qualitative ones, the risk of significant changes being managed in an undisciplined manner increases as does the likelihood of financial and resource capacity erosion to stealth work.


Many companies will identify programs the way Alan Novak spoke of pornography: “Mr. Justice, you will know it when you see it.“.  In the absence of an operational definition, the risk increases that an initiative which would have been better managed as an integrated set of projects with appropriate governance will be undermanaged resulting in reduced business outcomes.

Issue or risk severity and probability

What does “High” mean? Individual biases skew the analysis and perception of risks or issues so providing quantitative thresholds can reduce the potential for critical risks or issues being ignored or unwarranted effort being spent on low value ones. But simply translating risk probability from words to percentage values won’t help as our biases would continue to influence our assessments.

Project manager

There is no simple litmus test for what makes a competent project manager. However this should not deter organizations from establishing a minimum set of qualifications to prevent this scenario from a 2011 Dilbert comic. Without this, there is a greater likelihood of project failure and reduced credibility in the profession.

Companies need to establish reasonable operational definitions for project management – adaptability should never be confused with anarchy!



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