Making decisions is part of daily life for any manager or executive. Some decisions may result in a change of strategy in personnel policy or employee training. Other decisions may result in undertaking a project to launch a new product line. A gamble often is associated with important decisions. Newspapers frequently report the names of executives who were rewarded for "making the right decision" and those who were fired for being wrong. More than likely, those who were rewarded had weighed the pros and cons of the situation and had become thoroughly informed before deciding on the venture.
Making informed decisions is the dilemma at the heart of assessing potential project hazards. It plagues the project manager whose sponsor requests that he or she prepare an assessment of potential project hazards for the statement of work.
How does a project manager go about making informed decisions concerning potential external project hazards? By going out and talking to as many people as possible who have knowledge of every conceivable aspect of the project and by gathering as much input from them as possible.
Armed with this information, the project manager should be able to formulate key questions for the experts who have the answers. For example, if a project involves building a new atomic power plant, a critical question for a politician from the affected district would be, "Will the government become so environmentally concerned during the construction phase of the plant that they might close us down before we can complete it?" A seismologist could be asked, "What is the earthquake possibility on the land where we propose to build?"
The weather must be considered for some projects. For a pipeline project in Alaska, where it can get very cold and snowy, a situation called "whiteout" can occur, which severely limits the distance a person can see while outdoors. In fact, a whiteout can be so bad that with an arm fully extended, it is impossible to see one's own hand. Under these conditions, all outdoor work must stop, which would bring most pipeline work to a halt. Surely the project manager will query an Alaskan climate expert on the possibility of whiteout occurring during the pipeline's construction.
For any type of project, it is important to ask a crucial supplier, "What is the likelihood of your firm getting involved in a long labor dispute and cutting off our supplies?"
And the question for each and every project is "Assuming the project is feasible, do we have the right people to work on it?" Surprisingly, some organizations proceed with a project when the answer to this question is no.