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Gabriela Coelho 2 articles
Residence: BR Brasil
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Know the Ropes - risk interactions and the case of the Titanic

When dealing with risk Management, we often think about risks separately, including each of them in a template, sheet or the traditional (and super useful!) risk matrix alongside with the respective probabilities and impact. And although that is a great exercise and one of the main documents for Project Management, we sometimes overlook the outcomes of combined risks.

To illustrate this example, let’s take the worldly-famous case of the Titanic, “the unsinkable ship” that collided against an Iceberg, leading to the death of 1522 people in 1909.

Now, I am not totally familiar with the risks of sailing or cruising, but when I eventually get to go on my first cruise, I guess my general concerns would be: the weather and Sea conditions; the capacity of passengers on board and needed Safety equipment and (last but not least), the expertise of crew members. Hopefully, if only one of these factors goes wrong, the other 2 would be enough to make a successful trip in general and I would get back to solid ground safe and sound.

As you know, it was not the case of Titanic.

Although there are numerous theories dedicated to explaining what happened that night, one of the most interesting ones I found addresses the fact that Titanic had to face not only one, but several of the countless risks that could’ve happened.

  • For starters, Titanic’s test period was much shorter than usual (1 day, when the usual would be weeks, possibly even months), with some sources stating that it wasn’t even tested at all;
  • The crossing happened during a critical time of the year when icebergs are most common;
  • Together with some other design malfunctions, perhaps the most dramatic one concerns the rudder, 30% to 40% smaller than it would’ve been necessary for the kind of manoeuvers the Titanic would have to do on the crossing;
  • The sea was calm and the Moon was hidden, meaning there was not a lot of visibility or obvious signs that there were problems ahead;
  • The number of Lifeboats was not enough for all the passengers on board.

And these are only to mention a few.

Realistically, we can’t tell for sure what could have happened if any of these factors would have been different, but an analysis considering the collective possibilities would have been useful, as it is for numerous projects today also.

So when gathering risks, we should keep in mind not only the individual probability and impacts, but also how they can be connected, so here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • If one of the risks happen, how does that affect the probability and impact of other identified risk(s)?
  • If one of the risks happen, can that trigger new risks?
  • Can the strategy for addressing one of the risks impact the probability or impact of any other risks?

Remember: the interactions can be numerous, with 2, 3 or even more risks interacting.

Once this combined analysis is done, the resulting risks can also be included in the risk matrix , together with the respective strategy - this way you can have a clear overview and can define a safe(r) route towards Project success.  



Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Gabriela Coelho