If you have high criticality risks (in the top-right of the matrix), you’ll need to execute steps to secure your project’s survival. For example, you can either focus on the trigger event or the origin to lower the risk to a more manageable level.
This is the objective of a prevention strategy. Let’s work together on an example.
Reduce Criticality in a Project
You have calculated the level of criticality (probability x severity). Logically, you should focus on these two aspects to lower the risks and their potential impact on the project.
This action is called a preventive measure.
Use Preemptive Action to Reduces Problems
You can reduce the likelihood of a problem during the project (or limit the frequency) by implementing this action.
Depending on the risk, you will act on one or several aspects. In addition, certain circumstances can either reduce or increase the likelihood of a risk becoming a reality.
You will not always be able to tackle the causes directly. For our weather forecast example, you obviously could not influence the weather to avoid a wet weekend.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Special machines can blow clouds away. They have been used at certain major events and by farmers (to keep hailstones from ruining their crops). It’s another example of preemptive action: trying to prevent a problem from developing.
Reduce Risk Severity in a Project
Protective measures attempt to reduce the impact of a risk on a project. Of course, you want to reduce its severity so it can’t affect you!
For the rainy weekend example, taking a raincoat and an umbrella is a protective action. You can’t stop the rain from falling, but you can limit its impact by trying to keep dry.
Reduce Risks and Potential Severity
Ideally, you should act on these two aspects at the same time.
Imagine if you've planned to hold a big outdoor party for the weekend and you're expecting rain. If you invest in a machine to blow the clouds away and a tent to keep your guests dry, you will take both preemptive and protective action. Of course, such equipment would cost a lot of money, but your weekend plans would be secure.
Be Proactive About Decreasing Risks
As you have seen in previous examples, there are many different ways to decrease project risks. Of course, some measures will be better than others, but it will depend on the specific project and how you and your company work.
There’s no magic solution, and you will start to respond automatically from experience. But, depending on the characteristics of the risk, you could focus on the following:
Removing the cause(s) of the risk (preemptive action).
Changing the project scope (preemptive/protective).
Establishing clear rules and governance for your projects (preemptive/protective).
Passing on the responsibility to other parties (protective).
Reducing the potential impact (protective).
One last comment: as you have seen, critical risks require quick action so that your project can go ahead as planned. Whenever you identify a risk (even an acceptable criticality level), it is best to take action to lessen it if you can.
What you do will depend on the time and money you have allocated to risk management.
You can reduce the criticality level of a risk by taking preemptive or protective action.
Ideally, try to focus on both preemptive or protective action.
Each measure links the nature of the risk and the project environment.
Risk management is something you should consider in your budget.
Create steps to decrease the risks.
You’ve done most of the work now; well done! Now it’s time to create a deliverable that you should keep for the duration of your project. This deliverable is the prevention plan - and our focus in the next chapter!