Project Management

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Topics: Lessons Learned, Risk Management, Strategy
Risk-Informed Transit Project Oversight
John Rice Sustainment Engineer| Lockheed Martin Harmony, Fl, USA
Sillars, D. N., & O’Connor, M. B. (2009) presented an evolutionary process of integrating risk management into the Federal Transit Administration’s FTAs new-start transit project program. New-start transit projects generally request federal funding assistance through the FTA. FTA funding commitments occur early in the project’s development, and as such, the project is subject to significant risk, which has historically caused early estimates to be unreliable. To provide more reliable funding commitments and to better inform decision-makers, the FTA introduced risk-assessment requirements in 2002. Results from the earliest efforts indicated two areas for improvement: a more holistic method for risk assessment, and better integration of risk management into standard project management practices.

Do you agree or disagree that two areas for improvement are a more holistic method for risk assessment and better integration of risk management into standard project management practices?

What are your approaches in accurately identifying and predicting risks, therefore causing early estimates to be more reliable?

Sillars, D. N., & O’Connor, M. B. (2009). Risk-Informed Transit Project Oversight. Journal of Management in Engineering, 25(3), 106-114.
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Kiron Bondale
Community Champion
Mentor| World Class Productivity Inc. Welland, Ontario, Canada
John -

I'd agree in general that most organizations don't have effective project risk management practices. The issues tend to be around failures in implementing risk responses and in appropriately identifying the risks to be concerned about.

The specific methods of risk identification really depend on the context of the project and its domain. If the project is very similar to others completed in the past then inputs which use historical knowledge such as reviewing past issue logs, expert judgment, and risk checklists or prompt lists can help. However, the greater the level of uncertainty, the more the need to incorporate other non-traditional approaches.

Keith Novak Tukwila, Wa, USA
I would say the foundation of effective risk management is an open culture where people can speak honestly about the realities of executing the project.

Often programmatic risks come from over-selling capabilities. If the senior management demands a project costs less than X and will be complete by Y and they are not willing to understand the realities of what drives real estimates, then the estimates provided will reflect the idealized solution and not account for the known unknowns. This is especially true if there is no real accountability, and people are likely to change jobs before it is clear that the estimate was built on a vaporware type solution.

Technical risks often come from insufficient feasibility analysis. Some project objectives are easy. Some may be impossible within the current laws of physics. Others require detailed analysis to determine feasibility from impossibility and the limits of the feasibility envelope. Level of technical difficulty needs to be understood, especially if it involves expanding the current state of the art, because that isn't always successful, at least without great difficulty.

Being able to look objectively at the hard realities will go a long way to managing risk. It is far easier to deal with what we know, as unpleasant as it may be, than to deal with what we don't know.

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