Five Ways to Remove Project Risk

The highest standard of risk management strategy is to remove the risk altogether. It is not always possible, but let’s survey five approaches that you can consider on aspects of your project.

1. Over-design

A “gold-plated” specification that is over-specified with respect to the core functionality. Examples include redundant components, over-size strength components, or higher specification materials. This is a solution beloved of civil engineers who build structures on which many lives depend. The up-front cost can be high, but often whole-life costs are reduced due to longer maintenance cycles and longer life expectancies. Not therefore a solution used in consumer electronics!

2. Buy certainty

When you select components that are well tested, you can lock certainty of functionality, quality or cost into a component of your plan. These are sometimes known as “COTS” solutions, standing for “Commercial Off-The-Shelf”. Rather than develop bespoke components that do “exactly what we want”; trade some functionality for certainty that what you have will work.

3. Alternative solution

There may be other solutions to an element of your plan that offer complete certainty of schedule, budget or functionality. For example, rather than risk stakeholder resistance to an unusual idea, invest in a more acceptable solution even if you feel it does not offer equal benefit.

4. Address root cause

Root cause analysis, using techniques like the Fishbone and Five Whys, can help you identify a strategy that will address the cause and remove the threat entirely. This can be an exhausting and costly process, but identifying all of the failure modes up-front and addressing each one will remove a big chunk of risk.

5. Remove the risky element from your plan

if you cannot control the risk and the threat level is unacceptable, the only thing to do is remove that element from your plan and accept the compromise this causes. This is the basis of many public health campaigns: to avoid the risk, avoid the risky behaviour. Most readers will apply this in many aspects of their lives.

Risk Happens! by Mike ClaytonLearn about the five other strategies for managing project risk in Dr Mike Clayton’s new book, “Risk Happens! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects

See for details.

Buy it in paperback from Amazon here,
or in Kindle format, here.


2 thoughts on “Five Ways to Remove Project Risk

  1. Richard Quinn

    Hi Mike,

    Can you cite another source agreeing with you that “The highest standard of risk management strategy is to remove the risk altogether”.

    This goes counter to my training (which may itself be wrong or misremembered) that risks can only be avoided, transferred or mitigated – but never removed or diminished.


    1. Mike Clayton Post author

      Richard – the only source I can cite is common sense. If the risk is not there, it is no threat to you or your project. Avoiding the risk removes it – I would take these as two equivalent formulations. Sadly, usually the only way to avoid or remove the risk is to not undertake the activity that incurs it: you won’t crash your car if you don’t drive it. This is removing or avoiding the risk and the gold standard for not having an accident after a night out. Of course it does require you replace the risk with other (hopefully lesser) risks.
      Best regards


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