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Topics: Communications Management, Construction, Risk Management
What ever happened to the BLACK SWAN?
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The Black Swan was a term that described an event on a project that created significant impact while managing to miss being included in the risk management plan. What changed in our project management processes that there are no stories on the Black Swan?
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Black swan events take place all the time but they are not really labeled as such. Black swan events are events that could have been prevented if all the facts (known) were taken into account. So to put it more bluntly we allow our risks to become issues and our issues to become problems because we ignore them. I'm actually doing a webinar on exactly this problem ( https://www.projectmanagement.com/webinars...eps-to-Recovery ).

The term Black Swan is also really only used when the results are catastrophic such as Deep Water Horizon, Fukushima etc. but the principle is the same.
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1 reply by Stéphane Parent
Jul 31, 2017 2:19 PM
Stéphane Parent
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Thanks for the clear answer to Henry's question. I've signed up for your webinar.
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I would hazard that we have gotten better at risk management and that more events that would have previously been catagorised as a 'Black Swan' events is now being managed through the risk management process.

This being said the mining industry still has projects where these occur especially underground mining where geology is such a huge unknown factor. It is not an exact science but all possible precautions are taken to make provision for it's impacts i.e Fall of ground. Processes to eliminate, mitigate and defer impacts of these events are now common practice which was lacking till a few years ago.
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I don't think I've ever heard the term "black swan" except in small project management circles. I'd wager that anyone who's ever completed a large project has some examples, though.
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Ditto what Wade said. I thought for a second you were referencing the movie! In all my years as a PM, never heard the term. I have seen many instances of things being missed when risk was managed poorly or not at all. Just never heard it called the Black Swan.
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Jul 30, 2017 1:28 AM
Replying to Anton Oosthuizen
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Black swan events take place all the time but they are not really labeled as such. Black swan events are events that could have been prevented if all the facts (known) were taken into account. So to put it more bluntly we allow our risks to become issues and our issues to become problems because we ignore them. I'm actually doing a webinar on exactly this problem ( https://www.projectmanagement.com/webinars...eps-to-Recovery ).

The term Black Swan is also really only used when the results are catastrophic such as Deep Water Horizon, Fukushima etc. but the principle is the same.
Thanks for the clear answer to Henry's question. I've signed up for your webinar.
Network:441



While Black Swan has been a topic covered in several articles in PMI literature including PM Network, it may be beneficial to continue the discussion by proposing a definition for adding to the next update to PMI’s Practice Standard for Project Risk Management. I propose:

Black Swan: A project, program or portfolio (PPP) risk with the potential to cause significant impacts to cost, schedule, quality or requirements definition. It usually is not identified as a risk or if so, it is not actively monitored because of an extremely low probability of occurring. By connotation, it is most likely associated with a risk threat as opposed to an opportunity to exploit. It may be characterized as a risk where the mitigation may not be feasible or it may have extreme costs that can not be implemented within PPP finances. The terminology was popularized after the 2010 US movie film titled Black Swan, and the 2011 earthquake in Japan that set in motion a series of direct and consequential impacts from a risk event - an earthquake. The impacts included massive flooding killing resident and destroying property followed by a nuclear power plant explosion and radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.
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Good learning for me. I never heard of Black Swan- al though worked for large scale programs and big companies.
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Have you read "The Black Swan, The impact of the highly improbable" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
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I see there is a lot of misunderstanding on this topic. Both books (Antifragile is the follow up) are difficult to read and I would suggest folks listen to podcasts on the books, start with RiskMinds series.
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Unfortunately, the term has been abused to cover situations where high impact unknown-unknowns could have been envisioned had the right stakeholders spent enough effort on risk identification or on risk interrelationship mapping.

True Black Swans should be used to label those events which simply could not have been predicted.

Kiron
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1 reply by Henry Hattenrath
Nov 05, 2017 11:36 AM
Henry Hattenrath
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Thanks Kiron for the comment. I hope PMI will consider a definition so the community can all have a basis for future conversations on Black Swan.

Henry
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