The Sixth D of Project Management: Dangers 5 comments

project dangersIn this series of articles we’re discussing a simple approach for managing projects – the ten D’s of project management.  So far we’ve covered DefinitionDetail, Dependencies, Duties, and Dates.  Now it’s time to talk about project Dangers.


Project Dangers


In the Definition post we discussed the need to ask key questions before diving into detailed planning, and we used an everyday example of planning a meal/party.  In the Details post we created a hierarchy of work to be done, and in the Dependencies post we sequenced the work using a network diagram (flowchart).  Duties was about assigning a person’s name to each task that we had identified during the Details step, and Dates calculated an estimated schedule for the project.


So now we have a schedule of what’s supposed to occur – but we know things never unfold the way they’re supposed to.  Things happen.  Sometimes good things.  Mostly bad things.  Project Dangers is about how we prepare for these apparently unknowable events.


One option would simply be for us to deal with problems if/when they occur. That’s not unreasonable, but not very proactive.  This is probably not the first party we’ve ever been involved in.  We’ve seen problems on projects like this before, and without too much effort we could also imagine a few new things that might go wrong on our project.  How about we create a list of potential problems/Dangers we might encounter?  Here are just a few examples:

  • A guest might not RSVP but turn up anyway.
  • The wrong groceries might be purchased.
  • The chef might not as be as capable as he claimed.
  • It might be raining on the night of the party and people might get wet eating outside.
  • People might drink too much to be able to safely drive home.
  • You might not have enough time to purchase all the decorations.
  • Chris’s old stove could stop working on the day of the party.


Note that if we already know that the chef is lousy, that’s not a Danger – that’s a known fact and we should plan accordingly.  The items on our list are things that might happen – we just don’t know.


Strategies for Dealing with Project Dangers


Now that we have our list, what should we do?  We start by focusing on Dangers that seem most important – either because they seem likely to occur, or because they would have a large impact if they did occur, or both.  Then there are four approaches we consider for dealing with each of the important Dangers.

  1. Accept.  If it happens, it happens.  We’ll deal with it then.  For instance, if someone buys the wrong groceries we’ll just send them back to the store.  No big deal.
  2. Avoid.  Make the Danger go away.  Plan to hold the party indoors and no-one will really care if it rains.  Problem solved.  Danger avoided.
  3. Transfer.  Give the Danger to some-one else.   Recruit one your friends to research and purchase the decorations, or hire a professional.  Either way, they have to find the time now, not you.
  4. Mitigate.  Reduce the importance or likelihood of the Danger.  Plan to call people who haven’t RSVP’ed after one week to check on their status.  Hire a reputable chef with lots of references – they could still be terrible, but it’s less likely.


With a little pre-planning we can reduce the number of unexpected party hiccups we experience and have a smoother running project, but we have to consider these things earlier enough for them to be effective.


In the next post we’ll look at the seventh D after project Definition, Detail, Dependencies, Duties, Dates, and Dangers, and that’s project Documents.


About Kevin Archbold

Kevin Archbold, PMP, PMI-SP, has over 30 years of project management experience with large and small organizations in a variety of industries, including automotive, nuclear, telecommunications, trucking, IT, recruiting, mining, construction, and government. Kevin has presented at local and national levels within the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the winner of a local chapter PMI Project of the Year Award, and is the current president of a PMI Chapter.

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5 thoughts on “The Sixth D of Project Management: Dangers

  • Jay MacPherson

    I am used to the ‘scope, schedule, and budget’ (SSB) approach to PM. So I don’t know the particulars of this Definition, Detail, Dependencies, Duties, Dates, Dangers, and Documents (7Ds) paradigm. I see strong 7Ds connections to SSB using a less common approach, which is to provide multiple scenarios in the proposal stage. I learned to offer a client multiple scales of certainty with their respective costs. This required offering multiple definitions that vary in their level of detail having shared/unique dependencies requiring different duties and dates with shared/unique sets of dangers. Typically I would offer a top shelf, mid-line, and bare minimum approach having increasing risk of danger. Then the client has to pick. If a client picks bare minimum, they are also buying into increasing chance of change orders. This doesn’t mean a danger-free project with the top shelf option. It simply means the budget is better able to accommodate those that arise.

    Also, to transfer duties, we typically had multiple support providers to which to turn with preexisting contracts defining terms and conditions.

    • Kevin Archbold Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts. There are direct parallels between the SSB and 10D’s: Scope = Definition and Details, Schedule = Dates, and Budget = Dollars (yet to be included in the blog series along with Documents, Deals, and Disruption.) While Scope, Schedule, and Cost are obviously critically important, part of the message of the 10D’s is to get people to think beyond those 3, to include elements of communications, risk, stakeholder management etc. when planning a project.

      What you describe are different solutions to balancing/solving the SSB equation, which seems like an excellent discussion to have with clients during the proposal phase. Particularly for internal projects, it can also be beneficial to offer solutions that involve different levels/types of quality, risk, and/or resources in order to balance the SSB challenge.