Posted by: Craig Harding | August 25, 2009

You think you have accounted for all the risks?

How do you plan for the unexpected in your project plan?

Those of us schooled in project management (PMIPRINCE2, etc) rely heavily on contingency and risk management planning. We meticulously go through the rigors of documenting risk, the probabilities of those risks and their potential impacts on the project. We also plan how we will attempt to stop these risks from happening, or at least be able to deal with them if they do happen. It is important that we include contingencies in our plans for both budget and schedule just incase something comes up that we haven’t fully understood or accounted for.

But what happens when things from out of this world wreck you project plan? Such a thing happened to me.

Several years ago I was managing a group of software engineers for an aerospace and defense company. We had to send a software guy to Mexico to apply routine updates to our software on several aerial surveillance aircraft. We had done this many times before and almost always took two weeks. However, being a good project manager I still allowed for a certain amount of budget and schedule contingencies in case of flight delays or customs issues.

After three days of applying the upgrades and conducting test flights, I get a call from our man in Mexico. All flights have been grounded. All software, hardware, and related recordings have been confiscated by the Mexican Government and the CIA. To top it all off, our software guy has been confined to the military base with no signs of release until further notice.

Apparently, on one of the test surveillance flights, the pilots encountered a series of UFOs that were recorded on both video and radar. You heard me right: UFOs. The incident has been documented here on YouTube. Needless to say we did not have UFOs recorded in the potential risk section of our Risk Management Log!!

Our employee was confined to the base for 6 weeks with limited outside contact, thus blowing my schedule and budget contingency out of the water. This also caused havoc with the other assignments I had scheduled for the recourse upon his return.

All of the risk management and contingency planning in the world would not have saved me on this one. In cases like this you just have to suck it up, chalk it up to one for the books and move on. That is, unless you have contacts in the interstellar world or Capt. Kirk on your project team to help your planning. And yes, our resource did make it back home without any further incidents. Though he did have a peculiar yellow glow about him…

What crazy things have caused some of your risk management plans to look inadequate?

Cheers,
Craig

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