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Friday, June 22, 2012

Checklist and Assumptions Analysis

In the previous chapter we learnt about the Information Gathering Techniques to identify the potential risks in your project. In this chapter, we are going to take a look at two more tools & techniques you can use to identify risks. They are:
a. Checklist Analysis
b. Assumptions Analysis

Checklist Analysis

Checklist Analysis, as the name suggests deals with creating risk checklists in your project. These lists can be simple short lists or lengthy comprehensive lists. We will use these checklists to ensure that all potential categories and areas of our project are explored. Simply put, the checklist will contain all those categories that can be sources of potential risks and by striking them off one by one, we can ensure that we have covered all areas and ensure a complete/thorough investigation.

If you do not have the time or the resources to create a separate checklist as such, the lowest level of the Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS) can be utilized as a checklist. Do you remember that I said that the RBS can be used during the risk identification process in our previous chapter? By ensuring that every single item in the lowest level of a detailed/well created RBS can help us cover all possible sources of risks for our project.

As a project manager, when you sit down to identify risks for your project, it may look like a daunting task because there is so much information to understand and analyze. In such situations if you use a checklist, it can not only make your job easier, but also ensure that our analysis is thorough. In this stage, practically speaking we are combing through every single area of our project looking for risks. Checklists can help us confirm that we have looked into everything.

If your organization follows sound project management practices, you are sure to find risk checklists from other previous projects that were similar to yours. You can use that as a template or a baseline to create a custom checklist that will be comprehensive and better suited to your project’s needs.

Many companies/managers do not archive project documents or lessons learned. This is an incorrect project management practice. The whole purpose of this exercise of archiving project documents is to help our future generations to learn from our mistakes and if we don’t document them, it is possible that other projects are going to repeat the exact same mistakes over and over again causing delays and losses to the organization as such.

If you are in an organization where people don’t follow such good project management practices, bring this to the attention of your senior management or PMO and lead by example. Do it for your project and help others understand the importance and usefulness of this activity.

Assumptions Analysis

Assumptions analysis, as the name suggests is the technique where we are going to systematically analyze all the assumptions in our project. We are going to check if each of those assumptions is valid. If an assumption is inaccurate or inconsistent or incomplete, it can be a source of risk.

For ex: let us say you are constructing a house and you need the concrete mixer machine to lay the roof of your home. As per your schedule plan, the roof has to be laid 6 weeks from now and you have called up the company that leases out the mixer and blocked the dates. Based on this, you have made up the further schedule on constructing the first floor of your house. Here, you are making an assumption that the mixer will be available on time and will be fully functional in order for your scheduled construction of the first floor is to proceed. Isn’t it?

What if the company goes bankrupt just few days before our scheduled roofing plan? Or what if the mixer breaks down as soon as it reaches our construction site? These are all some issues that could affect us because of the assumption we made about the availability of the concrete mixer. Isn’t it?

This is exactly what we are going to try and identify during this assumption analysis.

Where will we look for all these assumptions? – The Project Scope statement & the Project Plan would have listed down all the assumptions that are relevant to the current project.

Prev: Information Gathering Techniques

Next: Cause and Effect diagrams

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