The 5 W’s And One Way They Are Useful in Risk Management

An important step in risk management is the identification of risks. In fact, as part of proactive risk management, the risk management team should identify project risks. This can best occur during a brainstorming meeting.

Preparing for Risk Identification Meeting: An important prior step to identifying risks is explaining the project to the team. In other words, project risk managers must ensure that “all participants should receive a briefing on the significant features and the novelties of both the project and the product.” [1] One way to convey this information is to use the product 5W’s and the Process 5W’s.

Product 5W’s

1. What is the project scope (features/functions)?: Answering this question will provide a context for the project in the minds of the team members. Be sure to identify the project not just in terms of physical features, but also from a functional perspective.

2. Who is the customer?: Knowing the intended customer allows the risk identification team to know what is important and to whom.

3. Why do this project now?: The timing for the project is normally critical to success. Products that are developed too early fail for lack of a viable market. Products that are too late to market fail because of price pressure and competition. Product release timing needs to be known by the risk identification team.

4. Where is the product deployed/sold?: For most products and projects, the location where it will be used or sold has a significant impact on risk. For instance, a satellite used in orbit around the earth will have risks that are different from a product used in an automobile.

5. When does the customer need it?: Answering this question is similar to question 3, but it is different since the release of a new product and the time the customer uses it may not coincide. For instance, a first aid kit may be purchased now, but used at some later date.

Answering the 5 product W’s is an excellent way to engage with risk identification team members.

References
[1] P.G. Smith, G.M. Merritt, Proactive Risk Management (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press: 2002), p. 46.

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