Too Much Success

Project Managers do risk management to improve their chance of success.  We want to avoid things that could stop the project being derailed.

Unfortunately, many projects don’t spend much time actively managing the risks they’ve identified.  That is worse than not doing risk management at all: it builds a false sence of security and projects fail with the team saying, “yeah, we had that risk on our risk log”.

If we don’t manage risks well, are we any better with “opportunities” those things that might happen and make us more successful? Colleagues who do serious research on this agree with my observations: mostly opportunities aren’t formally identified, monitored or managed.

I have a small personal project: making my garden productive as well as colourful. I’m succeeding. There have been risks to be managed:

  • If the grape vine doesn’t flower, we get no fruit.
  • If the bees don’t pollinate the flowers, our raspberry crop will be below the yield we want.
  • If the weather is very windy, pots will be blown over.

By planning and then acting, I’m improving my chances of success: using the right structures and staking to stop wind damage, adding the fertilisers to encourage flowering and planting plants that encourage “good” insects. 

I have identified an opportunity that needs to be managed. I didn’t expect much success with the grape-vine: a little fruit to enjoy is what I hoped for.  This year, it has grown considerably more than planned. This success means I need to put in extra work pruning. 

There is a residual opportunity too: despite the pruning, the vine may have more ripe fruit than expected. The opportunity of too much fruit is one I will need to manage before it ripens: plan time to pick, distribute and use the extra products.  Of course, I could leave it on the vine for the birds but wasting fruit would “ruin my day” – a definition of risk that works for threats and opportunities from my colleague, Adrian Wilson.

While there is work on opportunities as part of risk management in PMI (Project Management Institute) and APM (Association for Project Management) risk management forum, there is little guidance on the options for action (treatment) after identification. Threats have a range of responses (in english): avoid/do-something-else, share/transfer, reduce/mitigate, plan contingency/watch, or accept. In contrast, opportunities can be accepted or maximised – the methods rarely give more than one option. 

In practice, every opportunity is being dealt with separately.  We used to say the same about risks.  I believe the practice for managing opportunities is evolving. I look forward to watching what develops.


About 3triangles
Helping organisations make change happen in 3 key areas: strategic change, deliver tactical impacts, efficient and effective processes. All blog content (c) 2009 - 2012 Carol Long and Three Triangles Performance Ltd

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