Urgency Assessment

Author: Manu Steens

(inspired by “Risk Management – Concepts and Guidance” by Carl L. Pritchard)

Purpose of this type of assessment:

Classically risks are evaluated on a risk matrix, with typical colors red, orange, yellow and green, to decreasing values ​​of the risk. The boxes in that risk matrix that have the value depend on the probability and the impact of the risk event. Within one such box can put more than one risk. These can then all be handled and impacted in the risk register. Yet there are still reasons to take one risk, such as a shortage of personnel, before another. The question then is in which order these will be prioritized. An urgency assessment is required for this.

Construction of a template:

Since an urgency assessment is assigned to an organization, two sets of inputs are required:

– The brainstorm for drawing up the template
– Fit the inputs of the project / process / objectives / strategic risks to the template.

The former need knowledge of the environment of the organization. This is often dependant on the organization. Because of that, a template can often be reasnably uniform within an organization, but this can change over time with the environment variables.

The template is drawn up as a table, with evaluation criteria per row, and score descriptions per column.

The outputs of this assessment is a score one obtains as the sum of the values of the applicable columns, per row. The higher the score, the more urgent the risk must be treated.

Example of a template:

Project name: Risk event:
Urgency Assessment
Evaluation criteria


2 3


Experience of the project / process / objectives team with this type of risk.
Knowledge of / competence in workarounds and ad hoc solutions for this type. Some experience in dealing with this type of risk among the team members. One or two team members who have experience with this type of risk. No member of the team has experience with this type of risk.
Chance that the risk occurs before the next review. The probability is higher the later in the project and it does not occur for the next review. The probability is just as high later in the project as before the next review. The probability is high prior to the next review. The probability is highest the following two time periods (eg weeks, months).
Customer sensitivity The customer has no expectations regarding this risk and would suggest that we solve it. The customer expects this problem to be resolved immediately without delay. This risk affects multiple modules and quickly occurs in the project. This risk affects multiple modules and the project / process is highly dependent on each of them.
Complexity of / integration in the project / process / objective The risk only affects one module of the project and that module can be handled independently. This risk affects the entire project / process but only occurs at the end of the life cycle of the project / process. This risk affects multiple modules and occurs early in the project / process. This risk affects multiple modules and the project / process is highly dependent on each of them.
Visibility This risk can easily be identified in advance, which allows for a last minute intervention. The risk has a few recognizable features that allow for early identification. This risk is only identifiable when it occurs. This risk is only identified when it has happened.


Steps in using this technique:

The first step in building this template is to determine the types of criteria that make one risk more urgent than the other. Criteria that indicate that one or more events are about to arrive.

The second step is to create a scale. For each criterion you determine a numerical scale that indicates the influence on the urgency of the risk, running from a high number for a high urgency to a low number for a low urgency. (In the example there is only a single numerical scale.)

Step three: validate the template. Validation can be performed by testing against a number of well-known cases of high and low urgency. If the template differs from what is known from the history of the cases, the scales must be adjusted.

Step four: evaluate all major risks. These are typically the risks in the red and orange zone of the risk matrix.

Step five: prioritize the risk events. Red risks with a high urgency should be given priority on, for example, orange risks with a lower urgency.

Step six: Arrange the risk register according to the priority and implement the measures.


Risk Management- Concepts and Guidance

Author: Carl L. Pritchard

The author gives a collection of facts in this book, roughly divided into two parts. In a first part of three chapters he gives general explanation about risk management. Afterwards in a second part of more than thirty chapters he explains (management) techniques that can be used in projects.

The added value of the book for the project manager is multiple:

–    You will receive an explanation about the technique and its use
You will be explained the advantages and disadvantages of the technique
You can combine techniques according to whether they complement each other, such as combining brainstorming techniques with SWOT, a risk register and a risk matrix, supplemented with an urgency analysis and a sensitivity analysis.

The second advantage of the book is that in my opinion it should not only be used in projects, but can also be used in business as usual (processes), or in the drafting of a multi-year plan for a larger organization.

There are also some minor disadvantages to the book in my opinion:

The fact that the eyes must remain open to recognize, report and asses risks through the course of the project as a whole is only emphasized in one of the last chapters. Also in the 2015 edition of this fifth edition in one of the chapters is still spoken of ISO 17799 where this has already been replaced by ISO 2700x.

But for a project manager despite these two flaws the book remains invaluable, in addition to ISO 31010 because the explanation for each technique is much more complete and clear. It is a better start in my opinion to explore the assessment techniques needed to bring projects to a better end.

Crisis management strictly spoken: Some FAQ

Author: Manu Steens

What is a crisis and what is not?

A crisis is an incident that an organization can no longer solve through its normal operations. The Crisis Management Team (CMT) then takes over the management of the problem and communicates with the Crisis Communication Team.
What are not crises? Everything that can be handled with normal operations: issues and incidents, if there is no wrong intention.
An issue is a small thing that the organization processes through day-to-day operations of a team of the organization. There is no negative impact for the organization. There is no event yet.
An incident is an event with a negative impact on the organization that is solved by the day-to-day running of one or more teams.
An issue can evolve in an incident. An incident can evolve in a crisis. But an issue can also evolve very quickly in a crisis. One crisis can develop in the sidelines of another crisis.
An event with malicious intent is always a crisis.

How does a crisis originate?

There are 4 types of origins of crises: (United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld)
1. Known knowns
2. Unknown knowns
3. Known unknowns
4. Unknown unknowns.

The first two are called “Gray Rhino’s” in the literature. These are things that we know and are ordinary (known knowns). Often we simply forget that they are there (unknown knowns), until they are nearby and overwhelme us. (Unknown known can also mean that one does not want to face the problem.)
The latter two give rise to what is called in the literature the “Black Swans”. People know that something can go wrong but do not know what or where or when (known unknowns) (eg a terrorist attack, hacking, …) or you are simply not suspected of anything despite extensive brainstorming attempts and the like. (unknown unknowns). The latter are considered the most dangerous because they can easily disrupt the organization completely.
Often a seemingly innocent something that attracts no attention, triggers a crisis, after which a phase precedes the event, unless there is malicious intent. That is why one must continuously look at relevant matters internally or externally to the organization. This can be done with key performance indicators or key effect indicators, or with eg early warning systems.

How does a crisis work? And what types of crises are there?

A crisis has various phases. Almost every crisis is as follows:
1. A soft subcutaneous or suppressed phase leading up to an event with strong negative impact. (Phase before the event or prodromal phase).
2. The sudden event that is typically very short and has a strong negative impact.
3. The post-event phase where the negative impact takes a reasonably long time. In this phase, the operations of the CMT, CCT, CCP, CMP and BCP usually start. The time-critical processes are started on the BCP. Afterwards the essential processes and necessary processes will follow. All this is done at a predetermined minimum level of functioning. One must try to keep this phase short.
4. The recovery phase in which one goes back to an operating level of before the phase preceding the event. This can be done in the old way, or in a new way. The rule “Never waste a good crisis” applies here. By recovering you can do new and better things. Sometimes, however, people have to perform harder for a while during this period in order to get rid of overdue work.
5. Aftercare phase. Here the details are worked out. Afterwards, the process resumes its (new) normal (or improved) operation.



We note that there are two major types of crises with this trend, namely 1) the historically known crisis types (with a possibility of more or less systematic approach) and 2) the new unprecedented crises (for which no plan exists). As a new unprecedented crisis type occurs once or several times, it joins the historically known crisis types because experience allows for a planned approach. Pattern recognition occurs in the members of the CMT, CCT and CRT.

How can you prepare?

The Romans knew: “Whoever wants to keep the peace must prepare the war!” (Flavius ??Vegetius Renatus in his Epitoma rei militaris: “Qui desiderat pacem, bellum praeparat”) and the same applies in business: who wants to preserve continuity must prepare the crisis .
That is one of the reasons to work on resilience of the company, including through BCM and risk management. There are techniques that produce a business continuity plan, help create emergency plans and describe methods of risk analysis and risk management approach.
Both these practices mention crisis management. For both the following things are worked out:

1. Setting up a crisis management team (CMT), Crisis Response Team (CRT) and crisis communication team (CCT).
2. The crisis management plan (CMP).
3. The crisis communication plan (CCP).

One of the most important goals of the preparation is being able to apply the principles. Training, testing and practicing of the CMT and the CCT are therefore not unimportant at all. This has to be done at both operational and strategic level with which one can test the different roles, the leadership requirements and the cooperation possibilities (also with third parties across borders). So one must practice both the historically known crisis types and the new unprecedented crisis types. The first are testing the plans, the second mainly the leadership requirements. Both test the cooperation possibilities.

It is crisis, what now?


-> Notification: how do you know? And who do you notify?


Everyone in the business unit has the right and duty to report a crisis. Many eyes and ears know more. The report to the crisis team can best be structured as simply as possible. That is why it is best to keep the channels as short as possible: it is best to give everyone of the CMT reporting duty directly to the chairman of the CMT or to the person who is on duty at the CMT. If the organization has access to an early warning system, the CMT should also keep its finger on the pulse.
The chairman or the person on duty of the CMT informs the members of the CMT and CCT. A notification can also very typically come from the CCT, because they have a very clear view on what happens externally.


-> Priorities: what is important, and what is most important?


There are many important issues when dealing with a crisis, such as (in random order):
– political interests, inside and outside the organization,
– environment,
– laws and regulations,
– financial interests,
– economical interests,
– energy supply,
– reputation,
– Others ….

However, the most important top three focus points of internal crises within the organization are (in order of importance):
1. the people of the business units and in the buildings of the organization,
2. the buildings and facilities including ICT,
3. the processes of the business units.


-> IBOBBO: how do you tackle a crisis?


IBOBBO stands for:
– Informatiegaring (Information gathering)
– Beeldvorming (Imaging)
– Oordeelsvorming (Judgment)
– Besluitvorming (Decision making)
– Bevelvoering (Command)
– Opvolging (Succession)
This allows you to create an agenda for the operation of the CMT. It is also a blueprint for a crisis management plan (CMP). To make it a project, a start-up phase and a final phase can be added: the triggering of the crisis and the aftercare phase


-> Who expects what from you?


The CMT and the CCT can best think about and write down the roles and responsibilities of the employees within the CMT and the CCT in advance. Pay attention ! This is not limitative and can never be interpreted restrictively. In short, it is the responsibility of the CMT to ensure that all measures required to exorcise the crisis are implemented quickly. It is also the task of the CMT to use the recovery phase as a project and to guide it in the right direction. The CMT is in this role in the role of sponsor and appoints a project leader.


-> Aftercare, what is that?


Aftercare is dealing with the details. It is doing that where you could pay little attention to its low point during the bustle of the crisis. It is to ensure that the crisis mode is completed, and that people can return to business as usual. It is the completion of the recovery phase.


-> A common thread: Play Jazz


No one can handle a crisis alone. That is why collaboration is necessary. In the heat of the battle, the ears and eyes of the members of the CMT must remain open to know who is the best to make a move. The person who sees the possibilities must be able to present these moves briefly and be able to execute them quickly. Speed ??in all aspects of consultation and action is often more important than completeness. Acting on each other is therefore extremely important. Crisis management and crisis communication practice is therefore not a luxury, neither on operational nor on strategic level. That is why not only a great exercise is useful, but to get aligned with each other, many smaller exercises are also!

Not unimportant: what if the crisis grows over you?

-> If the need is too high, the overarching CMT is close.


If the CMT of the affected business unit can not solve the crisis alone, it can call in the assistance of the overarching CMT of the organization as a whole. There is an escalation schedule for crises within the organization. Because the overarching CMT then takes on the responsibility of managing the crisis for the entire organization, it will always be useful to inform the overarching CMT in any crisis, so that it can already go into pre-alarm if deemed necessary.


National Risk Analysis 2014 – Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection

Drawn up by: DSB – Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection

This national risk assessment dates from 2014 but is still topical.

Anyone who takes the trouble to go through the work from A to Z will receive a fantastic reward for it:

–    The work has a large number of ‘cases’ of scenarios of what comes down to society (from Norway, but many are more universally), and therefore also to the organizations in that society.
It is a good example of qualitative risk analysis elaborated in detail
The uncertainty (uncertainty) on the qualitative classification of probability (here: likelihood) and impact (here: consequences) is also taken into account on the basis of qualitative arguments.
At the same time, each case provides an example of a qualitative sensitivity analysis in the uncertainty analysis.

The cases are structured according to three classes: Natural phenomena, Major accidents and Malicious acts. In the end there follows an “overall risk analysis” in which the cases are summarized and in which a reasoning is worked out that elaborates on a statement by Einstein and one from Abraham Lincoln.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world. “- Albert Einstein.

This is illustrated by the first telegraph line that was opened in Norway in 1855: do you think of a risk analysis of the dangers of a solar eruption with particles that seriously disturb its functioning, if you know that this phenomenon was only discovered in 1859?

So: “imagine the future”. How can we prepare for a future that we still do not know what it will look like? For this the statement of Abraham Lincoln applies:

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Therefore, when reading the cases, pay attention to the idea of ​​what this case will look like in the year 2030, 2040 or 2050.

Good Practice Guidelines – 2018 Edition – The Global guide to good practice in business continuity

Published by The Business Continuity Institute

This edition of the GPG differs according to its own saying in numerous ways from the 2013 edition. Some of those that stayed with me are:

–    More collaboration of the BCM employees with other employees in other management disciplines.
Supply chain was integrated more into the story.
More links are being made to ISO standards.
Risk assessment has gained importance.

There are other things that have changed, which are noticeable:

–    Throughout the work, the link is regularly made to information security, but without referring to the ISO 27K series.
The BIA is still a 4-tuple, but the mandatory character has been changed to “use what you need”
A distinction has been made between crisis management and incident management.
There is a better explanation for strategic, tactical and operational plans in times of crisis. However, without mentioning that the choice is also important as a function of what one needs. This piece remained theoretically sharply separated.
There is a beautiful table here and there with more explanation of what is meant, such as the table with specific core competences and management skills that are required by the BCM responsible, divided according to the 6 professional practices.

In the book, extensive attention was given to PP6: ‘Validation’. Practicing and validating the operation of the BC program of the organization is very important as the keystone of the cycle to its restart.

In summary, we can state that the book is important for the beginners in BCM, but also for the advanced as a reference book.

What I personally regret that lacks is a bibliography for each chapter. For further reading I have the feeling that the interested parties are somewhat abandoned. But then there is the URL of ‘The Business Continuity Institute’ where you can find more information. (www.thebci.org).