Project De-risking

When you think of your high-stakes, market-facing innovation projects, do you have a sense of peace… a feeling of complete confidence? Or do you recall past project disasters? Now your team can have an “insurance policy,” so you’ll either win big… or kill your project quickly. A second benefit: You’ll communicate project risk clearly to management, and intelligently engage them in investment decisions. No more, “trust us… this will be just fine.”

How to de-risk high-stakes projects

Right now your projects face landmines ready to blow up budgets, schedules and reputations. The only question is whether your teams will see them in time. After all, no one steps on a landmine they can see. The AIM Institute has teamed up with Cameron Associates, creators of Discovery-Driven Planning, to offer a project de-risking workshop, based on Minesweeper® software. To learn more, read this 2-page workshop description, view this video by Dan Adams, or download the white paper, Innovating in Unfamiliar Markets.

Risky… or just uncertain?

Most companies treat high-stakes projects as “risky” when they should treat them as “uncertain.” Risk is the probability of a negative occurrence. When you first decide to pursue an unfamiliar market, you don’t know enough to assign this probability: You simply are uncertain.

It is dangerous to pursue this market “no matter what.” A more intelligent approach is to gather all risk factors, drive the important ones from uncertainty to certainty, and be eager to kill your project if warranted.

6 Project de-risking steps

Imagine your company would like to enter an unfamiliar market. AIM’s de-risking methodology gives your project team a six-point roadmap to follow, enabled by Minesweeper software.

  1. Generate risk factors: First your team generates as many risk factors as it can think of. These fall into three categories: market dynamics (yellow sticky notes), internal capabilities (green), and customer outcomes (blue).

  2. Build consumption chain: The problem with unfamiliar markets is that incumbent competitors have built up unnoticed competencies. Your team creates a consumption chain to reveal and investigate these “must-haves” as early as possible.
  3. Rate impact and certainty: Team members use an online survey to individually rate risk factors for impact and certainty. The team then reaches consensus for each 1-to-5 rating following special rules designed for this step.
  4. Review Certainty Matrix: Minesweeper software uses the team’s 1-to-5 impact and certainty ratings to create a series of Certainty Matrices, with three zones: Safe (green), Caution (yellow), and Danger (red).
  5. Create CheckPoint Plan: Now the team focuses on the potential landmines for its projects… the red Danger and yellow Caution risk factors. They create a plan to move from uncertainty to certainty on each.
  6. Review with management: At regular intervals, the team shares its progress with management. Minesweeper charts are easily exported to PowerPoint slides to communicate how the team is driving out uncertainty.

Consider the power of this last step. Instead of confusing management with a myriad of details, you focus their attention on the risk factors that really matter. You can engage all of leadership—from the CTO to the CFO—on the timing and investment needed to move forward. Or they congratulate you on quickly learning why the project should be killed. Gantt charts are great for managing timelines and resources. But what about risk? Think of this as the “Gantt chart for risk.”

How to learn this approach

We recommend you learn this approach through our one-day simulation workshop. You can either join us at one of our public workshops or bring this workshop in-house.

If you like this methodology, an AIM Coach can join your team(s) for an in-house workshop to conduct the same steps for one or more real projects. At this point your team receives and uses Minesweeper software to manage their project. The AIM Coach typically joins your team for short monthly web-conference coaching to guide them after the workshop.

For more information, contact us to learn more about Project De-risking training options.