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When Issues arise, Resist automatically Absorbing More Risk.

I have yet to have seen an example of a violation of the six constraints rule-of-thumb – whereby a change to one project constraint (Scope, Cost, Schedule, Resources, Risk or Product Quality/Technical Performance) does not impact at least one of the others (reference: PMBOK® Guide, fifth edition, p. 6).  The first action we tend to take when risks materialize (or issues surface) which affect our our project plan, is to determine if we can somehow “absorb” the resultant added risk.  Accepting more risk seems to always be the easiest remedial action to take, yet the down-stream ramifications of doing so without careful consideration can jeopardize team performance – this is especially critical in the scenario where the team is expected to “do more with less” and team performance is highly scrutinized.  As an example, PMs are expected to solve problems caused by issues (i.e., get the project back on track, or get unwanted help to do so), which most of the time leads to changing the future tasks (e.g., reducing future task durations and/or reducing task budgets) to show that the project can still remain on schedule/budget.  Even in the event that the original plan was established with enough schedule buffer, the action to eat into that buffer early may only add a small amount of risk, but the result is that you end up with less remaining buffer and greater risk, nonetheless.  Earned Value Management (EVM) systems tend to expose these risks, potentially prompting stakeholder inquiries regarding other options to consider – like changing Scope, Product Performance Requirements, or Resources – the more difficult changes to make.  In my book “Project Risk Management: A Practical Implementation Approach” I provide examples of various other options to consider.  Resist the “path of least resistance” of simply absorbing more risk – for there is indeed a limit to project risk absorption.