Waltzing With Risk

If you may select your next project, which would you take? The one with the most risk and most outcome ? If yes, you might be a winner like Fidelity or Schwab that chose to enter the online-broker market in the early 90ies. If not, you might be in fear like Merril Lynch that feared things like Perl, Java, CGI,> serverside logic, HTML and other “silver-bullets” of the early 90ies… and keep your growth stale at +/- 0%. On the other hand - a lot of companies that chose the risky way to not exists anymore…

This is the latest incredible book by Tom De Marco and Tim Lister that was on my Amazon wishlist for almost 5 months now until Chris reminded me with a recommendation about it. Now having finished it I can just agree with Edward Yourdon (Creator of the incredible ) that this will become the bible for IT Project Managers.

It not only adresses the "Reason why" to cope with risk management in your projects, but for instance the anti-thesis, the "Reason why not" (if you live in a culture of fear for instance...).

Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister provide an enjoyable to read, with great examples and their typical, somewhat sarcastic, view on the general issue of project management and the fact that a project - whatever risks it might impose - typically extends the first and most optimistic schedule by 150 to 200 % (that is 3-4 times more!).

Managing risks does not mean to manage the resulting problems or catastrophes alone, but simply the probabilities of these with adequate safety buffers and alternative strategies.

The visualization of a risk - a “we could maybe not make it”-issue is the first and probably most important step they motivate you to. Many organziations simply obey the “can do”-super-hero approach (I would call it CMM level zero) where not the infantile project plans and the resulting schedule and effort slips and therefore money and people loss are sanctioned, but the “questionable” behaviour to ask for possible bad outcomes and problems during the project path to take care of. (the organizations where there is always another dude with a “Hey Boss, I will deliver in your {impossible} schedule 100 pro, let me do it!”)

From the practical viewpoint they even provide an easy to understand arithmetic approach to probabilty calculations aswell as some tools (Excel based) you can download from their web-page. Not the most important issue in my opinion but nice for the more detailled analysis. I will take a look at that later.

You can even get some sample chapters of Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects at their website.

This is a must-read for every project manager, developer, customer and CEO.

You can also download from the October issue of IEEE Software, Lister and DeMarco’s article on Risk Management during Requirements

I am currently reading the german edition.