Ignore Conditions and Risks At Your Peril

Ignore Conditions and Risks At Your Peril

In this guest post, Dave Gordon takes a look at project risk and encourages us to consider operating conditions when assessing project risk.

In January 1979, the city of Washington, D.C. suffered an unusually large snowfall. Due to a lack of functioning snow ploughs, traffic quickly ground to a halt. Reporters descended on the new mayor, Marion Barry, asking him for his plan for snow removal. Barry scowled, and then growled, “Spring.”

Operating Conditions and Risks

Every municipality where snowfall is common needs to have a plan to remove the snow, when it eventually falls. They are certain that snow will fall, so it isn’t treated as a risk, but as an operating condition. It’s fairly easy to review records of past snowfall, business, and neighbourhood expansions and new roads, and changes in traffic patterns to maintain a standing plan and budget for the municipal government.

Let’s say that your project has a three-day event scheduled in January, in a locale that can get significant snowfall at that time of year. If you plan to have people travel to that event, the potential for snowfall is a risk.

If the snow falls a few days before or a few days after the event, it will have no impact. But snowfall just before or during the event may prevent people from reaching or leaving the location of the event. You will need to develop a risk response plan, particular to your exposure. And your first step should be to estimate your exposure.

Exposure and Response

The municipal government’s plan is to remove the snow from the roads, in some priority order. The date is largely inconsequential. But for your event, you need to consider each date separately.

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