Step 2: Prioritize Project Risks

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Instructional Design: Homepage > Identifying WBT Risks > Risky Business > Step 1: Identify > Your Turn - Risk Identification > Step 2: Prioritize > Your Turn - Risk Prioritization > Step 3: Mitigate > Your Turn - Risk Mitigation > The Risk Plan > Lesson Conclusion

Determine Probability and Impact[edit | edit source]

The second step in the risk planning process is to prioritize the known project risks. This step can be completed in the same risk planning meeting, immediately after the brainstorming session. Step 1 will yield a long list of risks but some of those risks are unlikely to occur or their potential impact on the project may be minimal. For example, a freak snowstorm could cancel a course pilot, but this would be extremely unlikely if the pilot location is Miami, Florida. Furthermore, it’s certainly likely that the Project Manager may forget to bring donuts to the weekly status meeting, but this event is not going to jeopardize the project. At this point in the process, the development team will decide which risks can be ignored and which deserve special attention in terms of probability and impact.

Probability Scale[edit | edit source]

The development team will review the risk list and first assign a probability ranking for each risk using a simple 1-5 scale. 1 represents risks that are very unlikely to occur and 5 are for risks that are very likely to occur.

Probability Scale

Impact Scale[edit | edit source]

Once the team has assigned probability rankings, they will use a similar scale and method to rank impact. This time the 1 represents very low impact risks while the 5 is for very high impact risks.

Impact Scale

Probability and Impact Ranking Technique[edit | edit source]

Project teams sometimes find it difficult to rank probability and impact. It helps to break the process down into steps.

  1. Identify the risk that is the most likely to occur out of all the risks on your list. Assign this risk a 5.
  2. Now identify the risk that is the least likely to occur. Assign this risk a 1.
  3. Rank the other risks relative to the assigned 1 and 5.
  4. Once your probability rankings are complete, use the same technique for your impact rankings.

Note: If you have a long list of risks, you may need to assign a few 1's and 5's before you're able to rank the remaining risks relative to your highs and lows.

Probability and Impact Examples[edit | edit source]

Let’s see how the examples introduced at the beginning of this section would be ranked. The probability of a snowstorm disrupting a course pilot in Miami is 1 but the impact would be 5. Assuming our Project Manager tends to forget inconsequential things, the probability of the second risk is 5 but the impact is 1 because donuts are not going to jeopardize the project. Now the last risk is where things get interesting. This is a common problem with WBT, so a probability of 4 seems reasonable. Also, since this will frustrate the client and the users, the impact is 5.

Risk Probability Impact Priority Actions
Snow storm prevents participants from attending course pilot. 1 5
Project Manager forgets to bring donuts to the weekly status meeting. 5 1
Final WBT course is slow to load in client's LMS. 4 5

Calculate the Priority[edit | edit source]

Once the probability and impact have been estimated, you can calculate the priority of each risk by multiplying its probability by its impact. At this point, you should reorder your risk list in order of priority. List your highest-priority risk first and the rest of your risks in descending order. This ensures that you will devote more attention to your high-priority risks in the final step of the risk planning process: risk mitigation.

Risk Probability Impact Priority Actions
Final WBT course is slow to load in client's LMS. 4 5 20
Snow storm prevents participants from attending course pilot. 1 5 5
Project Manager forgets to bring donuts to the weekly status meeting. 5 1 5



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