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Projects and risks

Projects and risks

Several months back, we were debating what types of scales to purchase for our trucks. The two options: conventional pit scales; or inexpensive high efficient weigh-in-motion scales. We ended up going with the old-school scales we have used for years. Even though we needed more of them to handle our traffic and they are more expensive, we chose the conventional scales because of project risk.

Weigh-in-motion is tricky on the software side of terminal interchanges. The biggest stumbling block is determining which truck the weights belong to. Weigh-in-motion is possible, just a little more complicated. There was a risk in developing something new, something more efficient. Risk the project would fall on its ass and a chance that the development group might be embarrassed. So we shut that option down and went with the expensive conventional scales - the safe choice.

A week ago, the scale manufacturer called to say “we’re going to be several months late.” In one email late in the afternoon, the safe option just became the highest risk element of the project.

Where should project risk lie? I believe all risk should lie internally, or as much of it as possible. You can control internal processes and projects. You can’t control third parties. Internal risk means you are aware of the problems and deep in the nitty-gritty of fixing them - coming up with a better solution. When the risk is pushed to a vendor, you are blissfully unaware of any problems until the project slips months or fails entirely.

There is inherent risk in life. A life without risk isn’t a life worth living. Project managers make their living on trying to eliminate risk. No risk means no growth. And even though the external option feels safer, it can be much riskier than internal risk.