Categories: Global Summit
By: Kim Essendrup
Founding Partner, RAID Log
“I've made all the mistakes I'm going to try to help you avoid today" ~ Kim Essendrup, PMP
Often times, project managers get to a point in their career where they are trusted to go in and rescue projects that are in trouble – something like “the wolf” from Pulp Fiction. This is a tough job, but one that is, unfortunately, far too necessary. The Standish Group’s CHAOS report finds that 31% of projects fail – which is a lot of projects that need help. And with $1.7 trillion in annual capital spend in the US, according to the US Census Bureau, that’s a lot of project investment on the line.
Like many other project managers, I’ve had to play the role of the cleaner many occasions and sort out broken projects. It is a tough job, but one which presents a unique opportunity to learn from projects as they are in the very process of failing.
RAID Me Not
There are of course a lot of lessons to be learned from these failures; what causes projects to fail, what things do and do not work to fix a broken project, and when it is time to make the hard call that a project is not worth rescuing. These are very important lessons because *none* of us wants to be in a position where our projects need rescuing, nor do we want to have to need someone come in and save our projects for us.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned from working with troubled projects, the one that is most actionable is this: I have never had to save a project which had an up-to-date RAID log.
That’s not to say that simply keeping a RAID log will solve all your problems. But it may be that using a RAID log will help you manage those problems well enough that you don’t need rescuing.
What is a RAID Log?
A RAID log is a simple but powerful tool for managing the delivery of work. The origins of RAID logs are lost to the dust of time - they were old-school 20+ years ago when I first learned about them. In its original and most simple form, a RAID log is a spreadsheet with four tabs; one each for tracking Risks, Action items, Issues, and Decisions (R.A.I.D.) for a project.
RAID logs are not the project plan. They are the tool you use to execute your project and manage your plan to success. While it seems like there is a new project management app released almost every week, nearly all of these tools focus on tasks management – whether they have GANTT charts and Kanban boards with bright colors, most of these tools focus on task management, with a few going beyond to do some resource and financial planning as well.
But unfortunately, the plan is not where projects go wrong. Projects go wrong because of unmanaged Risks, out of control Issues, forgotten Action items and poor Decision making. And the best tool to manage risks, actions, issues and decisions? The simple RAID log.
But I work Agile. Why would I need RAID?
Agile ways of working have significantly impacted project delivery for the better. Prioritizing people over processes, focusing on deliverables over documentation, being open to collaboration and responding to change all improve the efficiency of delivery. But does that mean there are no more risks? Does that mean issues are a thing of the past and that action items and decisions are no longer relevant? Of course not. A RAID log is just as useful and relevant whether you follow an agile methodology or a more predictive “waterfall” methodology.
In one of the few books on the topic, “Agile Risk Management” by Dr. Alan Moran, the author recommends an approach that is in-line with traditional project risk management. This includes analyzing organizational tolerance for risk and developing a “Risk List,” which is simply the beginning of a RAID log.
Although it’s an “old school” tool, a RAID log is a critical tool for all project managers. This is why I’ll be speaking about RAID logs at this December’s PMI Global Summit. In this talk, I’ll talk in more detail about what goes into a RAID log, how to use one if you are new to RAID, and some new ways to use a RAID log that I think will be interesting for even the most experience project managers. I’ll even share a couple horror stories about how RAID logs saved the day on some of my project rescue missions.
Are you interested in learning more and furthering the dialogue? Join me on Saturday, 3 December at 9:45 AM, 45 mins at the Global Summit or Virtual Experience Series for this presentation and take part in the question and answers with me and the rest of the PM community.