Launch Slideshow

Not-so-risky business

Not-so-risky business

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    Daniel Berman

    Built in the mid-1960s, the Factoria Transfer Station in Bellevue will be replaced with a larger and enclosed facility. The project’s expected to cost the King County (Wash.) Solid Waste Division $90 million.

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    Daniel Berman

    Rogers (left) and Hague at one of King County’s 10 transfer stations.

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    King County Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks

    Working in or near private right-of-ways is another major cost risk factor for seemingly straightforward projects like trail creation.

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    King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks

    To the layman, existing utilities are a straightforward aspect of construction. But they’re a potential complication that can greatly affect project cost.

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    Daniel Berman

    To lower the number of truck trips to and from the factility and improve payload efficiency, King County’s new Factoria Transfer Station will have a garbage compactor.

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    King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks

    If managed rigorously, legislators and constituents celebrate a project that was delivered as close to budget and deadline as expected.

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Setting the stage for countywide collaboration

Rogers’ assignment was straightforward. She was to:

  • Research best practices in risk scoring
  • Evaluate existing programs
  • Identify available information already being gathered
  • Establish ways to report more usefully on selected projects
  • Develop a risk scoring protocol.

“What was really important was to create a way to assess risk,” she says. The first step was to do research, gather stakeholders, and talk to program managers to “learn about planning and estimation processes and see how things ‘blow up’.” Over four meetings, a committee made up of program managers, council and executive representatives, and other stakeholders helped the auditor’s office identify risk factors and their relative importance and develop reporting procedures that were then tested.

“We asked each division to pick two projects: one risky and one routine,” she says. Managers of those projects were asked to complete the forms and then asked:

1. Did you understand the language? For example, was it easy to describe the project using multiple choice questions?
2. How long did it take to complete the form? The goal was for reporting to take less than an hour.

Another goal of testing was to see “if the right projects floated to the top.” In other words, since the process was being tested on completed projects with known levels of risk, did the new process correctly identify the riskier projects?

Development and testing took about six months and results were positive. The spreadsheets and forms developed made sense to project managers, could be completed in about half an hour, and were identifying the higher risk projects.

Next page: What drives risk?