I conduct online surveys to get feedback from project managers on risk management topics. Here’s one of the questions, “What risk management techniques would you like to know more about?” Survey participants often respond with: Nominal Group Technique (NGT).
The nominal group technique is an efficient means for identifying and ranking risks, as well as other items. It is brainstorming on steroids. Risks are collected from a project team. The risks are analyzed and ranked by the team.
The NGT is a powerful tool for larger groups. The technique saves time, engages participants, and reduces groupthink—a phenomenon where people set aside their personal beliefs and adopt the opinion of a group.
The project manager asks the participants to identify risks in a category such as schedule risks or budget risks.
The participants write down their ideas or items. Explain that there should be no discussions among participants.
The project manager asks each person for one idea from their personal list. The project manager captures items on a flip chart, white marker board, or cling sheets. Participants may “pass” if they have no remaining ideas. This step is complete when all ideas have been captured. Brainstorming rules apply.
Discuss all the risks to ensure everyone has a good understanding of the risks captured. Combine risks if they are similar.
Prioritize the list. I often use the 3-2-1 method. Participants rank the risks by assigning 3 points to the highest risk, 2 points to the second highest risk, and 1 point to the third highest.
The project manager might say, “Now I would like for you to write down the top three risks. Write down a value of 3 by the greatest risk. Write down a value of 2 by the second greatest risk. Write down a value of 1 by the third greatest risk.”
Collect and total the votes. Ask each participant for their votes. Total the votes. The items with the highest totals are the greatest risks.
In this example, our highest risks were Risk F with a score of 8, Risk C with a score of 5, and Risk A with a score of 4.
Discuss the results. Ask the participants if they feel the results are valid. Would they change the priority of any of the risks? Seek consensus.
Questions: What other methods have you used to elicit and prioritize risks?
Risk Identification Checklist. Ninety percent of all project risks can be greatly reduced by simply identifying the risks. Grab this checklist and start identifying your project risks.
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