Friend or foe: Identifying the impact of different risks on your projects

by Mustafa Hafızoglu

When you are in a war, it is very dangerous that is very it is very important to be sure whether the approaching fighter aircraft or tank is your ally or enemy. This uncertainty led the defense industry to develop a device called IFF (Identification Friend and Foe) it was first used during World War II to prevent friendly fire incidents in the field. IFF was initially designed to allow combatants to distinguish ‘friendly’ aircraft from ‘hostiles’ (Thales, n.d.). The concept is as follows: “An IFF radar sends a request signal by radio to the aircraft in question. A special piece of equipment on the aircraft called an IFF transponder picks up the signal and gives a response to identify itself as friendly” (Thales, n.d.). What about our projects facing various uncertain conditions. Are they a threat to our project or opportunity? So how can we find out whether they are friend or foe? Is there an IFF device that we can use for our projects?

The uncertainty world can be categorized as known unknowns and unknown unknowns. For known unknowns, risk management in our projects is used based on a proactive approach. So the project managers and the project teams first try to identify risks before they happen and then assess these risks based on their probability of occurrence and their possible effects. This assessment leads the whole team to decide which risks to prioritize and develop response plans for the important risks. On the other hand, for unknown unknowns, there is no proactive approach taken in project management literature. Management reserves are used at the executive level for these surprises. Hence our projects need an IFF system for these unknown unknowns.

IFF systems can basically be called a very quick decision-making system. It decides on whether the unknown is a friend or foe to our projects. The system would be triggered by identifying a new situation, and its aim would be to indicate whether this situation is a problem or not in a very short period of time. Hence there are two crucial parameters in determining this:

  • Making the appropriate decision: Setup a decision-making system as an IFF system. This system should be able to evaluate new situations based on not only the cost, time, and scope but also stakeholder expectations.
  • Short time frame: The decision should be made in a very short time frame so that any negative effects can be minimized or any opportunity can be seized. In order to achieve this, the decision-making process should be defined so that decision-makers are clear. Quick decisions can only be possible if we know the decision-makers and if they can quickly be involved in the decision-making process.

Unknown unknowns… Economic crises, the emergence of a strong competitor, and facing various unexpected issues… Are these challenges considered a friend or foe to our projects? Without an IFF system, it is very difficult to understand the pros and cons of these changes, and even if you understand the changes, it may be too late to take action for the sake of your project.

Do you have an IFF system? Leave a comment below to share your ideas about your system


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