Thursday, June 13, 2013

Risk management models

Dr John Breit is physicist who departed physics early for the world of quantitative risk management, after looking briefly at joining the Naval intelligence community. He went to work on Wall Street and became a risk slueth, overseeing risk taking and teasing out the unacknowledged uncertainties.

In an interview published online, we learn that "early in his career, Mr. Breit figured out that models for markets aren’t like those for physics. They don’t come from nature. It was necessary to know the math, if only so that he couldn’t be intimidated by the quantitative analysts."

To apply this insight to project management, just substitute "human behavior" for "markets" and you readily see the point: you really can't reduce human behaviors and factors to quantitative models. Ergo, there are limitations to schedule and cost models, like PDM networks and EVM and others, that depend on rational interactions among all the actors (project staff).

He warns that numbers often disguise the risk rather than reveal it. We read: The only thing from capital markets math he came to embrace was this immutable law of nature: investors make money by taking risk. “If it’s profitable and seems riskless, it’s a business you don’t understand,”

And Breit counsels that risk managers should  "... build networks of people who will trust them enough to report when things seem off, before they become spectacular problems"

Frankly, it all sounds rather practical for a physicist!

My counsel: work in reasonably short "waves", with the wavelength not greater than you can see ahead. Rethink, reassesses, and replan each subsequent wave. Don't expect that any model is going to be better than a piece-wise construction of short linear forecasts, each one adjusted for the circumstances of the current planning wave.

Check out these books I've written in the library at Square Peg Consulting