Agile Risk Management – Identifying Risks (1 of 4)

Agile Risk Management Process - Identifying the RiskRisk identification is the first stage in the Agile Risk Management process. This stage is followed by Risk AssessmentRisk Response and Risk Review.

A Risk is an uncertain event that will impact your chosen path should it be realised. Risks are events that are not currently affecting you – they haven’t happened yet.  Once a risk is realised, it becomes an Issue.

In Agile environments, the team shares responsibility for identifying risks that might affect a sprint, project or programme of development.

The Scrum meetings provide a strong forum for identifying risks on a daily basis.  Also, as most meetings take place before any commitments are made, the Product Manager and the team are able to mitigate/remove Scope-related risks before they’re allowed to enter a sprint.

Regardless of the forum, all risks end up either on a team Risk Board or on the programme Epic Board.

Requirements Workshop

The team and the Product Manager discuss new ideas, their viability and a rough idea of the effort required to deliver them (E.g. t-shirt size estimation). This conversation allows the Product Manager to re-consider and/or adjust requirements in a way that maximises value and minimises risk/uncertainty. Read more about Requirements Workshops.

Planning Poker

In this session, the team estimate the relative size of each User Story. Studies show that uncertainty increases as the size of a User Story increases.  This is yet another opportunity for a Product Manager and a team to reduce risk by rejecting User Stories over a certain size – they’re either broken down into smaller stories or they are forced to wait until a later sprint i.e. once they’ve been investigated further. Read more about Planning Poker

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is yet another opportunity for the team to identify, assess and respond to Risk. They only accept work they feel confident about delivering – they will work with the Product Manager to maximise output in a way that reduces risk of failure. Read more about Sprint Planning

The Daily Scrum

Once the sprint has commenced, the Daily Scrum becomes the main forum for raising Risks and Issues. We ask the question “Is anything blocking you or likely to block you from progressing as planned?”

We add highlighted risks to the Risk Board and catch up with the individual after the Daily Scrum to gather more details and agree a Response plan.

Any non-team members may raise Risks via the Scrum Master after the Daily Scrum when we break-out into smaller discussion groups. Read more about The Daily Scrum

Sprint Review

The Sprint Review is yet another forum where risks can be discussed. This session also provides an opportunity to highlight successful mitigation/evasion activities – it’s good to keep your stakeholders informed of what’s going on.  It’s worth noting that the Product Manager will under normal circumstances be liaising with Stakeholders and the Product Owner on a daily basis, so communication and awareness should be strong. Read more about Sprint Reviews

Sprint Retrospective

Although the Retrospective discussions will focus primarily on the idea of continual improvement, risks do inevitably become unveiled at this session.  This happens naturally as we review re-occurring issues, discuss weaknesses and disruptions.

The key questions answered at a retrospective are:

  1. What went well last sprint? < e.g. this could be the successful handling of a risk
  2. What didn’t go so well last sprint? < e.g. this could be the realisation of a risk or the re-occurrence of an issue
  3. What will we do differently next sprint? < e.g. this could include risk mitigation/response activities

See a great presentation about Retrospectives by the authors of Agile Retrospectives –  Making Good Teams Great.

Scrum of Scrums

In this session, we review project-level progress, risks and issues. The session is attended by the Scrum Master(s), Product Manager and Product Owner(s). Read more about Scrum of Scrums

Programme Planning Meeting

Although this is not a traditional Scrum Meeting, we use this session to review progress at a Programme level i.e. multiple projects plus Business As Usual activities. This meeting takes place in front of the Epic Board – a tool we use to track delivery, risks and issues at a programme level.

This session is attended by Product Managers, the Programme Manager and a Central Project Manager i.e. an individual responsible for the day-to-day management of cross-team delivery and coordination.

The next stage in the Agile Risk Management Process is Risk Assessment.

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