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30 January 2007

Risk Management 101: Positive risks

I should also mention that there are positive and negative risks. For example a risk of greater than forecast customer numbers, resulting in higher revenue is still a risk.

Positive risks can be described as opportunities. You can still plan to manage the risk, just in this case to take advantage rather than defend from the risk.

Often positive risks are ignored by project teams but can be worth exploring; Greater than forecast customer take-up can be generally good, but does unveil some potential problems like stock and staff management for order fulfilment, for example.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) generally acknowledges that positive risks are worth considering.

It has a special interest group devoted to discussing and understanding risk in the project context and it uses a definition that includes positive as well as negative uncertainty about the future. They also talk about risk management maturity in a CMMI like framework and suggest that as an organisation becomes more mature in its handling of risk it becomes more able to take advantage of upside or positive risk.

You can also think about positive risks in the context of programmes or portfolios of projects. For example, how can you take advantage of the fact that that new change initiative will finish early? You can grab the people and use their expertise early, you can leverage the changes they have implemented and so forth.

You can read more about these ideas at
RiskSIG or in the whitepapers at PMI.