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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The subjective CAN be made objective

The last High Influence factor, agency commitment, makes an interesting point about the protocol. Project managers are asked to agree with one of three statements:

  • My agency’s commitment is uncertain. Potential benefits haven’t been demonstrated, and/or additional funding is required, and the likelihood of full funding approval cannot be predicted.
  • My agency’s commitment could change. The project offers well-documented benefits and, although additional funding is needed, approval is likely.
  • My agency’s commitment is unconditional. The project is of the highest priority, offers proven benefits, and all necessary funding is in place.

Rogers quickly learned that even factors as subjective as “commitment” could be, and usually are, answered objectively. If there’s some doubt, a third party, usually a division head, is asked to review particular answers.

This evaluation factor also shows that assessing risk is largely common sense. Obviously, if department commitment is uncertain due to questions about benefits or funding, that is a signal of risk. Capturing this inherent common sense in a way that allows scoring and the comparing of scores is the instrument’s greatest strength.

Consider a similar set of questions on the topic of scheduling:

  • Externally Imposed Deadline: Can’t be missed without violating the terms of a court order, grant, or other legally enforceable agreement involving a substantial financial impact.
  • Public Deadline: Can’t be missed without causing adverse financial, operational, or public service delivery impacts.
  • Internal Deadline: Can’t be missed without causing adverse impacts.
  • Soft Deadline: No deadline or deadline that can be missed without causing adverse impacts.

Again, once identified, the effect on risk of various scheduling scenarios is intuitively obvious.

Next page: Numbers don’t tell the whole story