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Topics: Risk Management
Managing Unforeseen Risks

Projects can encounter unforeseen risks causing major delays and additional costs.
How can we identify and manage unforeseen risks in projects?
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Risks cannot be avoided, but can be reduced to an extent with some plans and alternatives. check for further details:

Hi Damian! Thanks for posting this question which I've been asked many times by attendees of my PMP Prep programs.
By definition, an unforeseen risk is an "unknown unknown" since we neither know what the risk could be, nor whether it will occur during our project and impact it.
The deadly December 2004 Tsunami and the extreme European volcano eruption of a few years back are both prime examples.
Since there is no way to identify such events at the beginning of a project, the best way to constantly ask ourselves, at monthly review meetings, whether there are any recent happenings that can indicate a near-term catastrophic that could affect our project.
I sometimes joke in my PMP classes that the Project Manager should also be the CWO of a project -- Chief Worrying Officer!
While worrying does not always help in life, being a CWO helps you be proactve in terms of risks.
With no way of predicting such events, there is no contingency provided to "unknown unknowns." Instead, the financial impact of such events will be handled through the organizations Management Reserve.

One of the reasons for contingency factors and reserves.

Use of management reserves is closing the barn door after the horse has left.

Helping your organization to become anti-fragile is a better long-lasting solution to dealing with unknown-unknowns.


Well one good approach is to start as early as possible. High level risks should be identified before the project even really begins (even before Planning), in the Project Charter or other similar initiation document.

Today unknown-unknown risk have dissapear from projects due to the amount of data and information outside there. As any other type of things in project management, mainly because risk management has a great component related to estimation, you need time to be aware of risk. So, the risk is not unknown-unknown. The risk is the lack of time to work on risk management. Taken the line of @Kiron few people know that one of the pillars of Agile is knowledge management. Knowledge is outside there. You have to have time to take the knowledge, mainly in the form of data, and transform it into information.

A good starting point can be the lessons learnt from previous projects, if your organisation has retained such information in its knowledge library

Mark makes a good point in that previous projects are good source for potential risks. A review of the projects risk plans, issues logs etc can provide good insight into potential risks and preventive and resolution activity

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"Only two things are infinite, the Universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

- Albert Einstein



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