The MG RUSH meeting and workshop risk assessment method derives from answering a series of questions about a project, its stakeholders, and meeting participants. Our meeting risk assessment method is based on project risk assessment work completed by F. Warren McFarlan and James McKenney of Harvard Business School.

Workshop risk should be assessed for every major meeting or session using our MG RUSH structured meeting risk assessment tool. Furthermore, the assessment should be performed as part of the facilitator’s preparation activity.

What is Risk?

Risk provides exposure to the following consequences:Risks Over Time

  • Failure to achieve benefits
  • Hardware and software incompatibility
  • Higher implementation costs
  • Longer implementation time
  • Performance that is less than expected

While risk is not “bad”—failure to understand risk becomes dangerous.

Risk Defined

Risk shows up at three significant levels in a project:

  1. Business risk is the potential exposure to the business for an incomplete, inappropriate, or late project.
  2. Project risk is the likelihood of a given project failing, missing timelines, falling short of delivery standards, or grossly exceeding its estimates.
  3. Technique risk is the potential for failure or major problems using a specific technique or tool in a given situation (ie, workshop or meeting methodology).

Where is Meeting Risk?

First note that risk is typically assessed for projects at three levels:Workshop Risk

Business — Project — Technique

Therefore, business risk is defined as the potential exposure to the business if the project is not completed or not completed on time. Additionally, project risk defines the likelihood of a given project failing or grossly exceeding its estimates. Finally, technique risk is defined as the potential for failure or major problems using a specific technique or tool in a given situation.

Our MG Rush Risk Assessment tool provides a method of quantifying meeting and workshop risk. MG Rush Risk Assessment evaluates the potential meeting or workshop risks because of four components when conducting either planning, analysis, or design sessions:

Size — Politics — Complexity — Diversity

Meeting and Workshop Risk Components

A facilitated meeting or technique aggregates up to four discrete risk contributors:

  • Size

. . . indicates the overall project size measured by effort, scope, and quantity of meetings and workshops.Therefore it affects planning and coordinating the required information needed to support the project. Questions include those covering work hours, duration, quantity of sessions, quantity of different types of sessions (ie, how many different agendas are required), and whether you are located at high-level planning or detailed design in your life-cycle. Because the larger the project, the greater potential risk when holding group meetings or sessions. Consequently, you need to know that size can be a significant driver of risk and thus structure your sessions appropriately (such as assigning a more experienced session leader or a team of session leaders).

  • Complexity

. . . is an indication of the existing structure of the business and the volatility of the information required to support the deliverable. Therefore, it measures how difficult it will be to specify, understand, and organize the information exchange. Questions include those about the newness of the topic, whether the initiative is a replacement or new (ie, evergreen), engineering or process complexity, the extent of changes required for both internal and external customers, environmental changes required, and acceptance of the methods.  Because the more complex an existing system is or the newer a business is, the more difficult it is to specify its requirements. Complexity and newness often generate incomplete or vague requirements. Consequently, adjustments may include developing more thorough agendas or using prototyping for some of the requirements gathering.

  • Politics—

. . . is an indication of the political and personality climate surrounding a project. Therefore, highly political groups tend to cloud the issues at hand and make sessions more difficult. Questions in this area include rating the attitudes of customers (internal or external), management, and participants; commitment of upper management; the level of controversy; past cooperation between customers and staff; the amount of flexibility allowed the participants; and stability of the organizations involved. Because highly political organizations or unstable organizations (ie, numerous reorganizations) can make gathering requirements difficult (cutting through the controversies) or short-lived (the participants won’t assume ownership when finished). Consequently, political risk lessens substantially using the MG Rush Professional Facilitation technique but requires a politically savvy session leader and extensive planning in gaining management commitment and proper resources.

  • Customer Organization (ie, heterogeneity)

. . . is an indicator of the nature and familiarity of the customer’s organization. Furthermore, diversity looks at the participants’ ability to cooperate with each other and the logistics involved in coordinating everyone. Questions include those about the number of departments participating, the quantity of participants, the location of participants (geographical, domestic, and international), their prior experience working together (if any), and the application knowledge of both the participants and project team. Because if an organization is cooperative and has few political axes to grind, yet is located around the country and the world, it will be extremely difficult preparing for the sessions as well as scheduling everyone for the workshops. Consequently, it becomes expensive to bring people from many locations to one location—especially if the estimated workshop duration is incorrect. Therefore, this type of risk calls for a more experienced session leader who has experience with logistics and workshop duration estimating.

When To Assess

Assess risk for every significant meeting or workshop. Always perform the assessment as part of the initial preparation. Then reassess risk for each stage or phase gate meeting, decision reviews, and look-backs. If meeting risk is not going down as you progress through the project life cycle, your meeting or workshop is likely facing additional trouble.

Mitigating Meeting Risk

Discovering that meeting or workshop is high risk alone is insufficient. Because you must do something to mitigate the risk. Following are guidelines:

High Complexity

  • Structure more participants in your workshops. Have a speaker (not yourself) stimulate the participants with prototyping ideas and then drive additional creativity to inspire innovation.

High Politics

  • Use a politically savvy session leader. Develop consensus and vision building with management by conducting a management workshop to develop the purpose, scope, objectives, and vision for the new business, process, or system. Always complete this workshop first.

Large Project

  • Conduct four to five requirements gathering workshops and then have a review with senior management to see if still on track. When scheduling workshops, schedule them from Tuesday through Friday and plan to finish on Thursday. That ensures that the participants have cleared their calendars for Friday in case the workshop runs over—otherwise, they go 
home early.

Diverse Organization

  • Lead meetings in a similar fashion as you would for a large project. Also, schedule numerous face-to-face visits or conference calls for the preparation interviews.

Size Factors Estimation

Size Factors Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the MG RUSH risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

Size Factors QuestionsSize Factors

The size factors measure the overall project size of effort, scope, and number of workshops. Therefore, this is an important factor in determining risk due to the complexity of planning and coordinating large projects and the required resources.

Project Life Cycle

All questions in this size section refer to the entire life span of the project your meetings support—initiation through implementation.

1. Work Hours:

Total work hours (1,000s) for the project? This question refers to the estimated effort in thousands of work hours to develop the complete system.

2. Duration:

What is the project’s estimated duration? This is the elapsed (calendar) time to complete the project.

3. Number Projects:

Number of projects supporting the initiative or program? If a staged or prototype project, how many stages?

4. Dependency:

Is there another project on which this project is likely or totally dependent? This question focuses on the “weakest link” theory.  It asks if the implementation has one key project that must go right above all others for the initiative to be successful.  If yes, does intuitive feel for the situation say the risk associated with that project is high?

5. Interfaces:

How many existing “systems” will the new solution interface? Count the number of existing, distinctly different, systems that will provide or receive information to or from the new solution.

6. Workshop Quantity:

Estimated number of workshops required for the project? Count the estimated number of different FAST workshops required to complete the project.

7. Different Types:

How many different types of workshops are required? Count the number of different types of workshop agendas required.  If the project requires six workshops all using the same approach, count only 1 (one).  If the project requires multiple approaches and different types of workshops, count as appropriate.

8. Beginning Phase:

In which phase are the workshops starting? Identify the beginning phase of the project.

Complexity Factors

Complexity Factors Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the MG RUSH risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

Complexity Factors QuestionsComplexity Factors

The complexity factors measure the existing structure of the business and the volatility of the requirements. Therefore, this measures how difficult it will be to understand and organize the requirements.

1. Project Type:

The project may best be described as (ie, a planning session), replacement for an existing process, modification for an existing process, or a new process. Is the project a replacement or a new effort? If it is a replacement, is the current process primarily automated or manual? A new effort would indicate that the business process is new.

2. Replacement Percentage:

What percentage of existing functions can be replaced on a one-to-one basis? For replacement projects, what percentage of the existing functions needs no change to processing rules and process flows?

3. Project Complexity:

What is the project complexity? From an engineering perspective what is the degree of complexity of the project? Is this technically less complex, about the same, or technically more complex than other projects?

4. Changes:

How severe are the procedural changes with the proposed project? From a business processing perspective, what degree of change will the new project introduce to the overall conduct of business? When viewed through the eyes of the person carrying it on, will the project dramatically change the way business works? Will revised business procedures be required for workflow?

5. First Time:

Are the proposed methods or procedures first of kind for the project team? Has the project team used the proposed methods and procedures before? For example, if using a new methodology and a new tool to support it, does the project team have experience with it?

6. First for Business:

Are the proposed methods or procedures first of kind for the business? This question is similar to above but from the business side.  Does the business have experience with the methodology? This question refers to the people responsible for creating the request—not necessarily the person working with the workflow.

7. Business Acceptance:

Will the business readily accept the proposed methods and procedures for developing the requirements? Will the business resist the methods used to extract and present the information?  If so, answer “no” to the question. This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

8. Team Acceptance:

Will the project team readily accept the proposed methods and procedures for developing the requirements? Will the project team resist the methods and procedures for information gathering and presentation. If so, answer “no”.

9. New Technology:

Is new or unfamiliar technology needed? Can the business (the final doer) easily make the switch to the new equipment required by the project, or will an extensive training and installation effort be required?

10. Success Dependent:

Is the project’s success dependent on new technology? Does performance of new technology play a key role in the success of the project?

11. Structure:

What is the rating of predetermined structure for the new project? The predetermined structure rating is:

  • high—requires little or no procedural changes at the doer level,
  • medium—requires a moderate or average level of procedural change at the doer level,
  • low—requires a high amount of procedural changes and doer education.

12. Outside Purchase:

Are purchased or outside sources being used? Is the project based on outside purchases? If so, to what degree? Purchased software may also include reusable functionality modified in-house.

13. Vendor Support:

How good is vendor support of the outside purchases? What is vendor’s track record concerning support in general and the specific purchase in particular? What support is available for in-house modified technology or software?

POLITICAL FACTORS

Political Factors Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the MG RUSH risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

Political Factors QuestionsPolitical Factors

The political factors are an indicator of the political and personality climate surrounding the project.  These factors heavily influence the success of a facilitated approach.

1. Business Attitude:

What is the attitude of the business? The general attitude of the business toward the system is: understands the MG RUSH process and its value (good), does not fully understand the process and is somewhat reluctant (fair), has no appreciation for the process and is anti-project (poor).

2. Management:

How committed is upper management to the project? This question concerns upper level business management’s support and backing for the project. Adequate commitment defines those behaviors needed to maintain a non-hostile atmosphere toward the project. If the attitude is not enthusiastic, investigate and resolve.

3. Controversy:

What is the level of controversy surrounding potential specifications? How controversial is the potential solution for the project? Are there multiple solutions with very strong support for each and little chance of compromise? Is a potential solution going to cause a controversial reorganization?

4. Participant Level:

What is the job level of the participants? Sessions become more politically charged the higher the job grade involved. Specify the general job grade level of participant.

5. Cooperative Users:

How cooperative are organizational groups with each other? If this includes various organizational units, are they cooperative or competitive?  To what degree do they talk to each other? This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

6. Flexibility:

The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in the final decision? The participants exercise what degree of flexibility and judgment?

7. Processing Flexibility:

The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in process design? This question is similar to question 6 above but pertains to the participant’s freedom in process and analysis.

8. Design Flexibility:

The participants have how much flexibility and judgment in detailed design? This question is similar to questions 6 and 7 previously but addresses the participant’s freedom in detailed design content.

9. Stability:

How stable is the organization? This question is looking for the capacity to identify and coordinate players in the project without frequent changes. This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

HETEROGENEITY FACTORS

Heterogeneity Factors Method

The method follows the steps below:

  • Review the risk assessment questions from prior worksheets or those that follow.
  • Use the MG RUSH risk analysis worksheets to capture your answers and compute a score.
  • Use this score as a basis for the risk-skill matching described in the risk-skill map section.

Heterogeneity Factors QuestionsHeterogeneity Factors

The heterogeneity factors are an indicator of the diversity, complexity, and nature of the business organization.  These factors look at the ability of the business to cooperate with each other and logistics involved in coordinating all the potential participants.

1. Number of Units:

Number of departments (other than project team) involved with the project? How many functionally different organizational units significantly participate in the project? If the project is for an IT organization, then IT is one of the business organizations.

2. Participants:

Number of potential participants? What will be the total number of people potentially involved in providing information in all of the likely workshops?

3. Locations:

Number of participant geographic locations? Count the number of physically distinct (over two hours commute apart) locations in which the participants work.

4. Multinational:

Are multinational participants scheduled to participate? Are participants from overseas scheduled to participate? Will sessions occur both domestically and internationally? Does the system require the inclusion of international design and support?

5. Prior Experience:

Have the participant organizations ever worked on a project together before? Did these particular participant organizations work together on a project before? Have they participated in a common system development or process engineering?

6. Business Change:

Must the business organization change to meet the requirements of the project solution? The business organization requires what degree of change to implement the proposed solution?  Will the organization remain largely unchanged (minimal) or must functions, responsibilities, and personnel be realigned to meet the design of the process (major)? This question refers to the final doer in the system.

7. Project Knowledge:

How knowledgeable is the business in the area of the project process? What degree of project sophistication does the business area possess?  Compared to similar efforts, is the business experience similar (very); does the business understand the key ideas and issues (knows concepts); or is the level of the project process new to the business? This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

8. Business Knowledge:

How knowledgeable are the business representatives in the business process? Do the business representatives have a good practical understanding of the business application (very); or is the understanding “academic” (knows concept); or at a lower level (limited)? This question refers to the people responsible for specifying the information—not necessarily the final doer.

9. Team Knowledge:

How knowledgeable is the project team in the proposed solution? Similar to question 8 but asked about the project team.

Workshop Risk Summary

Of the four areas, Size and Politics provide the most concern followed by Complexity then Diversity.

Workshop Risk Assessment encourages an understanding of the source of risk. It seeks to provide information for applied understanding of your precious resources. Neither avoiding use of workshops nor ignoring the potential risks involved is the answer. Therefore, you should begin evaluating risk and assigning session leaders accordingly.  MG RUSH provides a quantitative tool for evaluating meeting or workshop risk. We developed it in conjunction with Dr. Howard Rubin (developer of ESTIMACS). Consequently, see your MG RUSH alumni resources for a spreadsheet that substantially speeds up calculations and risk estimates.

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Finally, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Additionally, some call this immersion. However, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation. Therefore, our training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

 

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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