Project Risk and Opportunity Management

Authors: Agnar Johansen ; Nils OE Olsson ; George Jergeas ; Asbjorn Rolstadas .

One issue the authors are addressing seems to me to be the shortage of opportunity management in project management, while risk management is constantly evolving. They focus on a very large number of aspects of project management, which are always concisely discussed. Their starting points are that projects are to be successful, and what that means for the project, the parties that make up the project and what the contact points are with all other management points of attention. One conclusion is: the mindset must change.

According to the authors, a project is successful if this is the case in 3 areas, namely :

– Project objectives

– Business objectives

– Social objectives.

If we see the social objectives as achieved, we arrive at the following schematic overview:

Project goals achieved?
Yes No
Achieved your business goals? No Wasted investment Failed project
Yes Successful project Limited return on investment

 

Project challenges in the oil and gas industry are:

– The project costs that run up to 100%.

– The percentage of the engineering design that is complete before approval is given to commence expenditure ranges from 15% to 80%.

– The poor team performance due to a misalignment between management and the project team, and a lack of communication.

– A decreased competence of all project teams (owner, engineering , construction and manufacture): there are no “A” teams anymore.

In order to meet the project challenges from the start, the owners must take the time to define and plan the project. For example, they must:

– Appoint the right people to represent and advise them; they must be qualified, experienced and capable of working with others.

– Understand the internal and external risks and opportunities involved in the project, quantify them and make financial provisions.

– Clarify time schedule, cost and quality.

– Charging project costs over the entire life cycle of the project, not just initial costs of the construction.

– Ensure that the financial and other resources required for the project are available when needed.

– Ensure compliance with legal obligations and regulations.

– Monitor progress and performance with a focus on emerging opportunities and risks.

For all involved, the motivation behind the project is value creation. Important for creation of value is that the project (executing) organization brings business objectives into account, in addition to the project objectives, to understand the rationale for the project and that it works in the best interest of the owner. He, in turn, has to monitor the project closely and understand the interest of the business of the implementer (executive organization).

There are often conflicting interests between the owner and the implementing organization. Therefore, an agreement must be sought.

However, society also always has an interest in the project, for value creation from their point of view, e.g. through job creation.

These different points of view of value creation, i.e. different interests between these three parties, are the cause of each time a different view of opportunities and risks in the management process.

That brings unpredictability into view.

Unpredictability in projects is due to uncertainty . Uncertainty can be defined as any lack of information. Uncertainties lead to risks and opportunities in projects. So it is important to know the nature of the uncertainties. These are the ( un ) known ( un ) knowns .

Every uncertainty has one or more of the following causes:

– Nature

– Man

– Technology

The uncertainties of nature in projects have a low frequency but have a huge potential impact.

The uncertainties in projects caused by humans include the behavior of individuals, as well as the decisions made within and between organizational units. It stems from the behavior of the stakeholder (s) of the project. Project management may not be able to fully understand their rationale, motivation and business interests.

The uncertainties in projects that arise from technology concern the potential malfunctioning of equipment and systems. This can be based on design errors, damage incurred during transport or storage before it is deployed in the project, construction errors, poor testing, machine breakdown, … Usually these can be traced back to a human error.

Uncertainty management involves the change management that occurs throughout the project life cycle, to correct errors and unrealistic or unfeasible design , to comply with laws and regulations, to ensure occupational safety and to maximize the benefits of the project (by reducing risks and exploit opportunities).

Risks appear spread over time. Projects that seemed healthy at first can suddenly become unmanageable. Risks combine and interact to end up in chaos. Many risks are linked to the life cycle of the project. Risks with a link to legislation, e.g. can disappear quickly after approval for the project has been granted. Technical risks decrease as engineering follows. Some risks, especially the market-related ones, go further as they are independent of the life cycle. Global market risks are beyond the reach of virtually everyone involved. By removing risks in this way, you can create opportunities.

New opportunities can arise throughout the project life cycle. These can be internal conditions, such as: better competencies of employees, effective working methods, better or more resources available. It can also be external conditions, such as collaboration with other planned projects in the vicinity, so that the business generally saves time, but also for the user, such as installing sewerage during earthworks for road works … It can also save money by working together making purchases from a common supplier, or purchasing new products that make the work easier for several parties or guarantee better quality. This may require the project manager and owner to allow changes to the original project plan. However, there may be a risk that something will fail when an opportunity is exploited. In that case, active involvement, knowledge and authority are required of the management to allow the benefits of the opportunities to materialize.

Project management is also related to innovation management. Innovation is often used to mean something new, as a product, service, or output, and / or a new process, procedure or method. We add that innovation is also identifying and creating opportunities in projects. Also, identifying and creating opportunities, allowing them to materialize and reap their fruits can encourage innovative and creative thinking in organizations.

At the end the authors are talking about the changed mindset in the industry: Industry Best Practices : an adaptive and aggressive approach.

The adaptive approach is a flexible planning philosophy with a lot of authority delegation to the project team, which allows them to make qualitative and time saving decisions ‘on-the-spot’ without having to refer to a higher authority, and without fear of ‘blame & shame’. This agile planning is needed continuously throughout the project, starting with a moderate upfront effort, followed by continuous updates at a lower level, providing the opportunity to make quick decisions. This creates the opportunity for project managers to anticipate future problems, make an evasive maneuver for them, scan for future opportunities, and make the necessary changes for them.

Sometimes an offensive method is needed to push voluntary change, thereby adding value to the business value over the project life cycle. This approach is perhaps best demonstrated in disaster response / recovery projects. These situations represent the need for diversity in project delivery: the project manager makes the best on-the-spot decisions regarding work logic, procedures, schedules and changes. The project manager challenges the limits of the project and the limited authority of his team.