A Risk is something that could go wrong with your project, but has not gone wrong yet. This is different from an Issue, which is something that has already gone wrong. Risk is about any uncertain event, so it could be something that goes unexpectedly well with your project which you want to take advantage of, or it could be something unexpectedly bad that you want to try to avoid. Things definitely seem to go unexpectedly wrong more often than unexpectedly well, so we will focus most of our discussion here on managing the down-side.
It’s human nature to be averse to talking about risk. Most of us don’t like to talk about death, even though we know it will eventually happen to everyone. Mahan Khalsa in his book, “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play,” compares this reluctance to address risk to yellow lights. When we drive and see a yellow light, most of us have an instinct to hit the gas and try to make it through. Project risks are the same.
Often, we can sense those yellow lights in our projects. We get that feeling that something is not quite right and we may be at risk. But too often we just put the pedal to the floor and hope we can make it through that intersection without a terrible accident. That may work a few times but eventually, at some point, it will catch up with us.