The Impact of Unforeseen Risks

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Conrado Morlan
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Roberto Toledo
Joanna Newman
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Rex Holmlin
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Past Contributers:

Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
Geoff Mattie
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

The Importance of Changing Perspectives

It’s a Robot Revolution: Time to Embrace Your Humanity

Project Management to the Rescue

Calling All Trend Surfers

3 Signs Your Project Is Headed For An Accident



By Conrado Morlan

Risk identification is one of the first tasks many project managers tackle when they’re assigned a new project. But identifying risks can’t be a one-time effort.

The risk log is a living document that needs to be scrubbed and updated on a regular basis. Future internal or external factors can always impact the project.

And while it may be natural to think of risks as negative, that’s not always the case. Risks can also present opportunities that uncover new project benefits or enhance the benefits that were originally defined.

Here are a few examples of risks—and opportunities—that emerged during a project and took me by surprise.

Force Majeure: The Eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull

The eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland caused enormous disruption to air transportation across western and northern Europe in 2010.

While much of the media focused on air travel, freight-transport customers around the world also experienced parcel delivery delays.

At the time, I was deploying a regional project across the Americas for a global logistics firm. The project was put on hold so all employees could support the emergency effort to deliver parcels during the crisis.

The response plan rerouted flights originally scheduled for the hub in Germany to several cities in Italy where parcels were then transported via ground vehicles. And customer service representatives increased communication with customers about their shipment’s status.

In the end, the logistics company didn’t lose any customers and, in fact, many customers were pleased with how the force majeure was handled. The company also demonstrated to the customer the company’s effective emergency plan for crisis situations.

While this unforeseen risk delayed the regional project I was working on, I kept the project stakeholders informed frequently of the project team activities throughout the crisis and shared the actions to be taken to bring the project back on track.

Geopolitical Events: Fidel Castro’s Death

In December 2015, the United States and Cuba agreed to re-establish regularly scheduled flights, allowing selected U.S. airlines daily trips between the two countries.

During the first quarter of 2016, those airlines were launching projects to open new services to one or more destinations in Cuba. It was a daunting job. The projects would need to comply with U.S. and Cuban regulations. And information was not flowing rapidly between the two countries.

The airline I was supporting was awarded three Cuban destinations. But in November, while we were finalizing details for the first flight to Havana, we learned about Fidel Castro’s death.

During the mourning period, all communications with Cuban government officials and agencies were suspended. Trips airline employees working on the project had planned to take to Cuba were canceled.

The project team was uncertain what this delay would mean for the first scheduled flights to Havana. To address the potential risk, different scenarios that included the postponement and cancelation of flights were defined and mitigation plans were drafted for potential implementation.

After the mourning period, communications were restored and project activities normalized. Ultimately, the geopolitical event did not impact the scheduled flights, but it was a risk that could not have been anticipated.

As a project manager, what unforeseen risks have impacted your projects? How did you address and mitigate those risks?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: January 31, 2017 03:05 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Greetings,

Very nice article with practical case studies regarding risks.

In my own experience, I worked on a project developing a Data Acquisition software to communicate via serial port with a machine. As we could not move the machine to our lab, we enacted a set of sessions with the machine and saved the requests and responses data, which later we fed into a serial communication simulator to conduct the development of the system. When the software was ready, it failed to communicate with the actual machine upon deployment, even though tests with the serial port simulator were successful. At the end, it resulted that communication speed between the software and the simulator was faster than the communication speed with the actual machine, so after tuning the software to wait for communication from the machine, finally the deployment was successful.

We thought that developing the system against the serial communication simulator could mitigate the risk of not been able to use the actual machine in the software development process; but we did not foresee the risk of the simulated environment to behave slightly different than the actual machine!

Excellent ..

In a construction contract the impact of unforeseen risks(force majeure/foreclosure/insolvency) to the Contractor is practically impossible to ascertain accurately .In a competitive market any buffer available under contingencies may not be adequate to absorb the damage that such risks may inflict.

Like in database management system, we work with all the minor cases that can make disk failure, so that we can recover all the data. Similarly, we should consider all the risks that create problem for us.

Thanks
Ajay Mishra
Webworld Experts Reviews



Thanks for bringing up positive Risk. As you said,opportunities can present themselves from unforeseen risks.

Thanks for sharing

This excellent article reminded me about Nassim Taleb’s “black swans”, emergent events with low probability but with catastrophic consequences if they materialize.

In the VUCA World organizations need to be able to survive and prosper in these black swans contexts, which have become much more frequent, and one has to be more prepared for those occasions – through the development of resiliency and other strategies.

The unknown unknowns as people refer to them have become an issue of live and death to nowadays organizations.

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

"History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot."

- Mark Twain

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors

Vendor Events

See all Vendor Events