Risk Game

    Disclaimer: This web page contains just an abstract of a research report that will be presented on SEAFOOD 2009 conference in Zurich, Switzerland, on 3rd of July, 2009. Materials of the conference will be published by Springer Verlag.

    One of the most important "process area" in project management is risk management, which includes risk planning, risk identification, qualitative and quantitative analysis, risk response planning and risk monitoring. The risk identification process provides the material for risk analysis and risk response planning.

    A raw list of risks, that shall include hundreds of them, can be generated by different methods, including brainstorming, historical records, checklists and templates, risk charting, objectives-based, scenario-based, taxonomy-based, conduct a "pre-mortem", Affinity Diagrams, Delphi technique, expert interviews, Nominal Group Technique, and others.

    Every method has its own advantages and drawbacks. However, any of them when applied to a project with the following constraints, will fail to produce a required result: a) project team is multi-lingual and distributed (online text chats only), b) risk identification meetings must take less than one hour, c) meetings are held regularly (every iteration), and d) each meeting shall produce at least a hundred risks.

    Existing methods will fail in these circumstances because of (most common causes): a) Inattention; b) Language barriers; c) Unavoidable personal criticism; d) Weariness after repeating meetings; and e) Untrained risk identifiers.

    A good solution to the outlined problems could be a method that will reduce the amount of efforts required for risk identification, at the same time increasing personnel engagement and motivation.


    The purpose of this method is to increase the effectiveness of risk identification meetings in software development projects, reduce the time and effort required for the meetings and make the meetings possible to be held in online text chat form.

    The meeting facilitator prepares and presents to the meeting participants the list of five key project objectives and a list of risk sources (up to dozen). The objectives go horizontally, while risk sources vertically. The matrix becomes a field for the Risk Game.

    The rules of the Risk Game are:

    1. Facilitator announces the next row (risk source);
    2. Everyone invents risks for the given risk source;
    3. Facilitator chooses the winner for the row;
    4. Matrix gets the name of the winner in a corresponding cell;
    5. The person who has the most cells wins the game.

    The meeting recorder maintains the list of all invented risks. This list is passed to the facilitator by the end of the meeting. The result of the Risk Game is a long list of raw unsorted risks, which will be used by the project management for quantitative and qualitative risk analysis.

    The proposed method is more effective than other existing methods when meeting time is limited (less than one hour) and a big list of risks is required (more than a hundred). The method is more effective in such circumstances because it quickly involves everybody in the process, converts individual criticism into a fair competition and stimulates group thinking.

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