The Power of If-Then Risk Statements

IF. Have you thought about the use of this two-letter conjunction in risk management lately? Let's look at how to use the power of If-Then risk statements.

IF is a simple word that can open up new doors to writing clear risk statements. And it can be used to write opportunities as well as threats.

If-Then Risk Statements

Write Opportunity Statements

Opportunities are events and conditions, that if they occur, have a positive impact on your project objectives (e.g., schedule, scope, budget, quality). Here are examples of how you might start these risk statements:

  • If you purchase ten or more computers from the XYZ vendor, 
  • If you add an additional developer to task ABC,
  • If you use quick-drying cement,

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Write Threat Statements

Threats are events and conditions, that if they occur, have a negative impact on your project objectives. How might we start these statements? Here's some examples:

  • If the electrical system is not installed per the specifications,
  • If the developer does not perform their unit tests,
  • If the key stakeholders are not involved in the requirements sessions,
  • If a tornado strikes the home office during the next two weeks,

Things to Note About If-Then Statements

Notice that If-Then statements involve risks, future events or conditions. These are things that may happen, good or bad.

Also, notice that some of the If-Then statements point to personal responsibility. That is to say, we have control over these conditions or events. We choose whether or not to take advantage of these situations. For example, a developer chooses whether or not to perform unit tests.

Other If-Then statements involve conditions that we do not control. For example, we have no control over whether a tornado strikes a location. Contingency plans or business continuity plans should be developed for these risks.

If [Event], Then [Consequences].

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Then Results

Then. The result is predictable. We describe the consequences or impacts. 

  • If you add an additional developer to task ABC, then the task will be completed one week earlier.
  • If the electrical system is not installed per the specifications, then there will be additional cost and an adverse impact to the schedule.

If-Then vs. Cause-Risk-Impact Risk Statements

So, how does the If-Then statement compare to the Cause-Risk-Impact statement? The Cause-Risk-Impact statements include causes, facts that give rise to the risks. This information helps people to better understand the cause and effect of risks. It also helps us to better manage the causes and resulting risks in the future. 

Your Turn to Write Clear Risk Statements

If I were to audit your risk registers, what would I find? Are your risk statements easy to understand? Take some time to review and refine your risk statements. One way to improve clarity is using the If/Then metalanguage: If [Event], Then [Consequences].

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