How to Identify and Manage Secondary Risks

Have you ever tried to address an issue and created a different problem?

A response to risk can create other risks. These secondary risks may be more significant than the primary risks if we are not careful.

Secondary Risks

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One of the Pink Panther cartoon episodes pits the Pink Panther against a mouse in his house. The mouse was driving the Pink Panther crazy; he had to find a way to eliminate this problem.

The Pink Panther, dressed in a catsuit, chased the mouse out of the house and down the street. The neighborhood dogs pursued the “cat.” The Pink Panther ran for his life but was torn to shreds.

What is a secondary risk?

A secondary risk is a risk that is created by a response to another risk.

What kinds of risk responses may cause secondary risks?

The risk owner may be well intentioned in reducing the probability and impact of a risk; however, many responses have the potential of creating secondary risks. Whether the risk owner is mitigating a threat, executing a contingency plan, or executing a fallback plan, the risk owner may cause secondary risks.

How should we address secondary risks?

When defining risk response plans, risk owners should identify, capture, and develop response plans for secondary risks in the risk register. Risk owners should seek the most effective risk responses that produce the least amount of secondary risks.

How does this work in real life?

Imagine you are part of the project team that has been directed to add new functionality to an accounts receivable software solution in four months The project is critical to beat the competition to market and seize market share.

When identifying risks, the project team is uncertain if the two assigned developers will be able to complete the programming tasks on time.

The team decides if the developers fall behind schedule a week or more, they will add another one. However, the team is concerned that this response may cause a secondary risk — adding a new developer will require the original developers to provide orientation, putting them further behind on their activities. The team captured the secondary risk and developed response plans.

Taking Action

Review the risk response plans that you’ve developed and identify secondary risks. Evaluate the secondary risks and develop response plans for your most significant secondary risks.

Question: What is an example of a secondary risk that has adversely impacted your team’s ability to accomplish its goals?

7 Ways to Identify Project Risks

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