Risk Management in Small Teams
I was taught risk management the classic way. You know, risk log, voting for probability and impact, finding out which risks are the most painful, deciding on mitigation plan, discussing results etc.
A cool thing in this old-school process is that it activates different members of the team. Even those, who wouldn’t be asked otherwise. Even those, who would tell you that the project is doomed unless you decide to do something about that performance issue found last month.
At the same time in small teams this kind of process looks like complete overkill. In small teams which deal with small chunks of work knowledge about risks (about everything actually) is often commonly shared. The problem isn’t about bringing individual opinions to the table. The problem is to make risk management as simple as possible yet still effective.
An easy and powerful approach here is to forget that there is something like risk management at all. At least to the point where you don’t consider having dedicated formal process to do risk management. Instead you incorporate risk management to everyday tasks: stand-ups, retrospectives, demos, planning meetings etc. You discuss potential risks every time you discuss a task or story. You discuss potential risks whenever you feel about it.
You won’t even need a risk log. If you talk about risks at every occasion you quickly learn how to catch those which may become painful (filtering by type) and those which are likely to hit you (filtering by frequency of mentioning).
When you keep talking about risks all the time people learn to deal with them naturally as they work on their tasks. Potential performance problem Luke mentioned yesterday? I’ll run some stress tests as I just have a while and maybe Mike would take a look at database as he’s already tweaking it to build that new feature. The trick is we don’t call it a risk. It is just a performance issue. Possible performance issue actually. Luke just thought it might become a problem but in a couple of days the problem will be gone, this way or another. And you don’t need to use the word risk, have a risk log, perform risk assessment, build and implement mitigation plans etc.
The only thing you need to have this kind risk management in place is a bit of trust and open atmosphere. Oh, co-location and no-meeting culture may help as well but in small teams both are usually in place already.