Risk Management (RskM), can it become interesting?

“Nothing is as invisible as the obvious.” Richard Farson


I always had problem in understanding the difference between theory and practice. I always considered them the same. I can’t imagine that I could trust physician who has no formal education in medicine. For me people who practice based on theory can deliver authenticated results. In implementing best practices, including Agile and Lean, many of the impediments of implementation are known from advance.

“It has been proven scientifically that the Loxodonta africana and Escherichia coli share most of the same characteristic” (Dr. Robert Charette from keynote at LSSC10 in April 2010). Then, we should expect that the creature we create from implementing organizational practices would carry similar characteristics and problems of the old system.

The two creatures, the old and new processes, may appear dramatically different though they are fundamentally the same. Then, how should we expect that our problems will be solved by moving to the new system? In my view, we might divert the attention of the organization to another endeavor till they ultimately hit the same reality (aka we still carry the same traits of the old system).

RskM in context

RskM is a practice that has rich body of knowledge. e.g. PMBOK® and CMMI®, however it has mostly been implemented in non-proactive way. Just to mention its importance,  traditionally we chose the software development life cycle (SDLC) of the delivery project based on risk assessment.

The implementation of agile practices requires enabling aspects or structures related to people, process and organization. These structures could be identified from up-front using risk assessment techniques. However, in my view, if we try to mitigate all risks from up-front, we might not start the improvement initiative at all.

Process improvement framework

A Kanban system provides evolutionary framework for incremental process improvement and therefore risk mitigation. It helps in implementing Lean practices to maintain the flow while at the same time the agile and XP practices can be rolled-out. In other words, Kanban system can envelop the implementation of various agile and XP practices to weather the winds that will definitely happen during process improvement.

A good starting point is to state the obvious (“the known unknowns” in RskM language) and use them as constraints in our process improvement  journey for discovering the root causes. More risks (” the unknown unknowns”) will be discovered as we progress which can be addressed under the umbrella of the Kanban system.

As we are moving our delivery projects to agile, it is about time to manage our process improvement and transformation programs in agile manner. Kanban system can be a good fit!

Acknowledgment: The above two pictures are from Dr. Charette’s presentation in LSSC10