The Game of Risk

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

Agile methods are all about delivering value. We work on the high-value items first and prioritize the backlog based on business value. Everything is value driven, aiming to maximize value delivered. Risks, on the other hand, are like anti-value--they are potentials for value-robbing down time, rework and even project failures. Risks are like bank charges, direct debits or a credit card problem: Not kept in check, they can undo all the positive value we are working hard to create should they occur. So, just like balancing our finances, we should proactively monitor these potentials for value loss and plan risk avoidance and mitigation strategies as part of our iterations.

Risk Adjusted Backlogs
This is the main principle behind a risk-adjusted backlog--to have a smart blend of value-generating business features and risk-reduction actions. This way we truly maximize overall value.

Not all risks can be easily avoided or reduced through project action. Some risks will be accepted (“We are waiting for Service Pack 2, due in Q4, to fix this issue”) and some risks may be transferred to other parties best able to handle them (via insurance or outsourcing). Yet for the vast majority of risks, there is something we can proactively do to avoid, reduce or get a better perspective of them.

The challenge comes in determining where is appropriate to insert …

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