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19 de mayo de 2013

Yesterday’s Problems are Today’s Risks



Leon Tolstoi wrote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Likewise, we could say that happy projects are all alike, but the drama we live in every failed project is so particular.

Imagine you are starting a new project and somebody tells you: This project is very similar to that just concluded by Peter, why don’t not you ask him?

You are busy preparing the kickoff meeting. You think this project has been poorly sold and will take longer. You are discovering there are many stakeholders opposing the project, scope is not well delimited, there is much innovation and much to lose if the project goes wrong.

You decide to refresh a bit and go to see Peter.


Peter is a very methodological colleague. For this project, he compiled a risk repository structured in cards like these:


There you are the problems that Peter imagined that could happen, the response he planned and after materialization, he annotated final cost overrun and delay. You were beginning to imagine some of these problems on your blank sheet. How much would you pay for something like that?

Usted sabe que no va a tener exactamente los mismos problemas que ha tenido Pedro, pero puestos a usar la “bola de cristal”, mejor reutilizar su experiencia que partir de cero. Su cliente tenía mayor madurez, usted no va a tener tantos usuarios y la gestión del cambio será más fácil. Su proyecto y el de Pedro son diferentes, aun así, es seguro que hay patrones, categorías, procesos, plantillas, etc., más o menos reaprovechables con poco esfuerzo.
You know you are not going to suffer exactly the same problems as Peter, but if we have to use the crystal ball, you better reuse Peter’s experience. Okay, Peter’s client company was more mature, you are not going to have so many final users and change management will be simpler. Your project and Peter’s are different. Still, there are patterns, categories, processes, templates, etc. more or less reusable with low effort.

All a Project Manager may need is already invented.


In projects, mistakes are paid. Nobody will return you a lost day at the beginning of the project —i.e. you assumed your team would have an equipped room, but you didn’t. You get a great benefit just for not stumbling over the same stone twice.

Projects mistakes are paid. Effective Project Managers tries not to “stumble over the same stone twice”


If we don’t have the right to believe that a particular assumption is still valid, it is our responsibility not to believe. Recall the quote by Mark Twain: “It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so.”

One of the best habits an Effective Project Manager might have is to collect progressively (involving the rest of stakeholders) the information on risks and lessons learned. Real learning comes only when they write all this down, not just for them, but for others can use this knowledge in the future.


Click here to read the Spanish version of this article. 
Click the label English to see the other articles written in English.