Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Lesson in Risk Identification, from the Very Worried Walrus

Just got a shipment of old school children's books from my in-laws a few weeks ago (yes, we have kids, I don't just read kid's books for fun or blog material). One of the books is "The Very Worried Walrus", by Richard Hefter. This was one of my husband's favorites, but I had never read it before. So, when I read it to my daughters for the first time, it got me thinking about Risk Identification.

Let me tell the story....

Worried Walrus really wants to ride a bike, but is afraid he'll fall off. He has a conversation with "Positive Pig" about why he's worried...

"If I fall off, I'll get hurt. Then I'll have to go to the doctor. And I'll need medicine orbandages....or...stitches! Ohhhh!"

To which Positive Pig replies, "That's silly, bicycle riding is fun and there is no reason to worry."

The Worried Walrus goes on, "An awful lot can go wrong. You have to steer and pedal and balance. You have to look out in front of you and on both sides and make sure nowone is behind you...and not go too fast...and use your brakes."

Reading further, we understand why the Worried Walrus has his title, "...If I get hurt, they'll have to take me to the hospital in an ambulance. I can see it now, there's a traffic jam on Main Street. The ambulance get's stuck..."

And he ends up in the middle of nowhere walking through the rain in a dark night, wet and hungry and looking for anyone who can help him.

I won't give away the rest of the story, you should pick up the book and find out for yourself!

But, I think this is a great example of Risk Identification. This is the process of discovering, defining and documenting risks before they become a problem in a project. The way I see it, the more creative you can be about it, the better. The project team should sit down and brainstorm on all of the possible risks to the project and get them documented. The document should detail the risk, the severity, impact and contingency plan (here's a sample Risk Management Worksheet from the Gantthead site). At regular intervals throughout the project the team should revisit these risks, add new ones and archive anything that is no longer a risk. I recommend reading "Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects" to find out more about risk management.

The goal of this is not to be worried like the Worried Walrus. Actually the opposite, the more creative thinking you can do in the beginning of the project to identify and then manage the potential risks, the less stress you will have and more sleep you will get at night.

So, I tried to have this same discussion with my 2 and 4 year old after reading the book to them and well...maybe I'll try again in a few more years.

1 comment:

Raj Menon said...

Hey Dina, I really like the simplicity in which you wrote this post.

We all need to be creative (proactive) in thinking/planning ahead and be prepared for road blocks that we may encounter in our (project) journey. Then once we are on the path to our goal/objective we need to be confident of crossing all the hurdles along the way. So, it is important to be a Worried Walrus in the beginning and then be a Positive Pig rest of the way, to be successful.

There is a lot we can relate to and learn from the simple stories we've learnt as kids and apply it to project management.

Tell us more. :-)