Sunday, March 16, 2014

The ultimate low-tech risk management tool


Can anyone image doing serious risk management without a checklist? (The answer, of course, is No) Actually, any procedural management can benefit from a checklist.


There's been whole books written about checklists. In fact, one of the more prominent books -- "The Checklist Manefesto" by Dr. A. Gawande -- entitles Chapter 1: "The Problem of Extreme Complexity", recognizing the contributors of breadth and depth and interdependencies (check on this before you do that....) are more than we can reasonably keep in mind.

PDM Heresy
Here's some heresy for the MSProject geeks among us: PDM tools are great for laying out the schedule architecture and getting estimates -- via simulation -- of likely outcomes, but they suck at day-to-day management. Why so? In a word, complexity.

You can't practically put all the dependencies in the tools or the logic would be byzantine. No one could understand or follow it if you put it down (why did you do this? why did you do that?..). Some interactions are best left to the unit commander/team leader.

What's a PM to do?
And, so how to manage those interactions and day-to-day requirements? Checklists! Check off on this and check off on that.... And, it's a great tool at a daily stand-up

Here's some specifics:
  • Small lists... No list too large; keep the near-future in sight
  • Lots of lists; make a new one every time the situation changes
  • Coordinated lists; I have this one.. do you have it's companion?
  • Reusable lists; once a list is validated by actual use, archive it for reuse
  • Validated lists; get SME input to validate the list... a list can be just as wrong as any other tool
  • EV lists; Don't put aside earned value... the sponsor and everyone involved wants output, and they want output commensurate with its value
  • Kanban lists; teams push things along through a sequence of steps... did everything get DONE?
Schedule and WBS
And now to application: checklists are found between the milestones.

Fair enough.

It's all about situational awareness, look-ahead strategies, and understanding the constituents of getting from here to there. There's no new scope; just go to the WBS for the parts and go to the schedule for the milestones. Then: checklists!

The end.

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