Risk and Organizational Change at the PMI Global Congress – Part 2


At last month’s Project Management Institute’s Global Congress there were many sessions on risk management. PMI has long considered risk to be a critical factor in project management. We were treated to a number of very sophisticated risk workshops, by very thoughtful educators and consultants. I had some very useful takeaways from these sessions; this is one.

Outsourcing has risk that needs identification as well – both from the project perspective and from the ongoing service and relationship management perspective. In my practice, I generally see interest in risk management up front, but the interest in maintaining a risk management and mitigation plan wanes after the outsourcing project is completed and services begin. In our view, this is the time when risk management is most important.

I’ve wondered for some time why managers are so reluctant to engage on risk, and I’ve come to believe that it’s because risk is boring – unless you’ve got a “live one” in front of you. So when I signed up for the session “Deadliest Catch: Risk Identification in the Vast Bering Sea,” I was hoping for something different – and I got it.

The instructor, from The Persimmon Group divided up the room into groups of about 15, and asked us to watch some film clips from the Deadliest Catch program and identify all the risks we could see in 10 minutes after the films. We had about two minutes to organize ourselves (the groups were complete strangers to each other) and were told that the group that identified the largest number of risks would win a prize.

Then he rolled the tapes of the dangerous, wet, cold, frightening footage of men catching crabs off the Alaska coast. We made notes and collated our risks afterwards in an atmosphere of fun and excitement. Granted crabbing is a bit more immediate and obvious than managing outsourced services risk, but the very short process focused everyone’s minds wonderfully! Our team identified over 100 risks – but we still lost to a group who did a better job of creating their categories.

It was an eye-opening way to push a team to quickly take stock, which forced immediate identification of key categories, and an excited atmosphere to literally call out the risks large and small without rationalizing. When I told the instructor I planned to use the technique with my teams from now on, the room exploded in applause. It was a smart, interesting way to drive people to think fast (and in a relatively fun way) about risk. I’ve used this already with a client, just focusing on their own risk, and giving them a head start by identifying categories such as Reputational Risk and Geopolitical Risk to help them. It worked like a charm; they identified nearly 200 risks in eight categories in two ten-minute sessions, which has lead to subsequent risk workshops to follow up.

This is a real keeper of an idea, and now part of our overall Risk Management methodology in our Service Management & Governance practice.

About the author

Cynthia brings 25 years of experience helping clients develop their sourcing governance and service management design. Having worked with more than 50 organizations to improve business management and service management processes in both single-provider and multi-provider environments, Cynthia has become a recognized expert in sourcing governance, vendor and contract management. She currently serves as the architect for ISG’s service methodology and global integrator of its products and services. Cynthia works to leverage ISG’s accumulated intellectual property resources to help enterprises create effective transformation and governance capability, and maintains a continuing role in the Strategy and Organizational Change Enablement practice.