I’ve been experimenting with this approach to risk assessment. Twelve simple questions that act as your crystal ball into the future on the mental impact the work you are undertaking may have to you and your team. It may also help you to get some insight into the likely outcome of your endeavor. All of these questions are what I’ve found to be some of the root causes of high variation in the predictability of software delivery. The less variation you have the more predictable you will be on timescales. The more predictable your delivery is the easier it is to manage expectations. If your delivery is very unpredictable then you and your team are in for a rough ride. The results of the questionnaire provide you with a graphical representation of your risk profile following these definitions:
- Challenging – pretty much all software development is challenging in some respect or other. There’s no reason why challenging can’t be fun!
- Taxing – you are going to need a few beers after finishing this one but at least you’ll finish it.
- Stressful – Prepare yourself for some very tough conversations with your stakeholders.
- Traumatic – You will probably get the job done but you’ll remember this as a nightmare for many years to come. Expect high staff turnover! Stakeholders will be unhappy, trust will be damaged.
- Terminal – Very strong possibility that you won’t make it to the end! The delivery may end up being terminated, abandoned, or cancelled. There will be lots of casualties along the way.
I’ve assessed seven teams using this method so far and the risk profile does seem to correlate with the stress levels they are experiencing day to day and the variation in their predictability. By sharing this information with management we’ve managed to make changes to improve the situation.
What does your risk profile look like? I’d be really interested to see assessments from you and your teams. Also, what other sources of variation have you experienced that could be captured in the assessment?