Shared Risk Management

I wrote this post over 4 years ago while working for Laterooms. The idea was to publish it in Laterooms engineering blog but for some reason or another it never happened. The intention was to document the way we managed risk in an Agile environment and how the technique we describe and experimented with impacted delivery.

Problem Statement 

Our team was finding a great number of unmitigated issues mid-sprint that had not surfaced during sprint planning, not because the planning sessions were not being rigorous, but because risks were not being identified and mitigated ahead of time.

We needed to get a better understanding of what types of issues and to what degree they were affecting our progress. Up until this point, as a Product Owner I had owned our RAID, logging all of the risks and issues, qualifying them for impact and trying my best to mitigating them to the best of my abilities.

The more we got entrenched into Scrum, the more I realised this was an agile anti-pattern, no individual person is able to identify and mitigate a wide range of potential risks that affect a product team. Identifying and mitigating issues had to be made a collective goal, shared and owned by the entire team.

Qualifying Risks and issues

The first step was to make sure all of the risks and issues affecting the team were logged, by collaborating with the team, using our Systems Context diagram to map out all of the different systems surrounding the team we quickly realised that we had a lot more risks that we initially thought.

We now needed a way to qualify the risk and issues, so we decided to use a common scale that would allow us to overlap risks and issues with velocity, providing the a full picture of how RAID impacts the teams progress.

Improved Visibility

Our Risks and issues board is visible to the team at all times, we booked in a weekly stand up where the entire team goes through the risks inventory and assess the impact and probability of each risk.

When Risk Management becomes a shared activity, it is owned by the team and becomes part of the organic process. Teams get used to looking at the information radiator and begin to use it as an indicator of what is ahead.

We use our risk board similarly to what the Dashboard of an airplane, our dashboard gives us a visibility of any potential risks ahead of our journey giving us time and space to make informed decisions on what to avoid any potential obstacles/dangers that lie ahead.

We then surfaced the risk board in a burn down chart where X is the effort required to mitigate the risks, y is the estimated loss should the risk convert into an issue. The key objective is to use this tool to prevent risks from becoming issues that would inevitably hurt delivery. 

Observation

Unsurprisingly, shared risk management clearly showed that we have a lot more issues impacting progress than we thought. Most issues have dependencies that have been identified, since we now know ahead of time are, and how they impact velocity, we now know what areas we need to focus on.

Benefits

  • Made all of the issues impacting the teams progress visible,

  • Surfaced risks that would have gone unnoticed,

  • Able impact of issues and unmitigated risks on Velocity,

  • Highlighted recurring areas where dependencies emerge,

  • Improved sprint Planning – Less unknowns,

  • Increased the efficiency of the mitigation of risks as they are identified when the probabilities still low. 


I highly recommend that you checkout the Laterooms engineering blog, particularly if you are interested in the implementation of Elastic Search
For further reading Elastic, the iCarAsia Engineering team has a great series of posts that cover how use Elastic Search to improve our consumer experience.

One Civilisation & One Species

It has been a long time since I have written anything worth while reading, but as I stare at a picture of a young little boy who's beautiful lifeless body washed up by the shores of Turkey I can't help it but feel a sense of despair and unbearable impotence. I have a son, just like him, he looks just like him, he dresses just like him, both loved, both with their entire lives ahead of them. 

They are the same

This can't be it for us as a civilisation, this needs to be turning point where we fundamentally realise that nations and countries are nothing but made up imaginary boundaries made by a pre-historic civilisation that fails to understand that evolution is not about technological progress but about the ability to destroy all things that make what should be one into many. 

Progress is understanding that what makes us different from one another is what makes us so similar. There should be no religion or country or boarder that makes any Human Being feel unwelcome in his own planet.

I feel such uncontrollable grief and sadness that needs to lead to something. 

I live in a Muslim country. I'm not Muslim, the friendships and bonds I have created with many people I have met and that have welcomed me into their country irrespective of our differences has made me a better person. The more I learn about the local culture the richer I am. 

How much richer would Europe and the World be if they did the same?

Action needs to be taken. 

Good old paper

I think old age may finally be starting to take over me; little by little all my digital gadgetry is having to live side by side with paper notebooks, magazines, post-its, sketch-books. My decision to go "full-scale" digital was made consciously last year, mostly driven by convenience and efficiency. It seemed so logical, as cloud computing took over with its wide range of fully synchronized productivity tools it did not seem efficient to keep using paper, so I progressively moved into digital and started using Google Keep for all of my notes, Google Draw for diagrams and sketches, all my magazine subscriptions moved to on-line, the only thing I did not do is give up books,  actual books, not that nonsense fakery you download into a Kindle device. 

A couple of months into the change  I started noticing that my ability to retain information seemed to be getting impacted by the fact that my mind had its own way of interacting with data on a digital device. It is as if my brain labels anything that is digital as something that is either temporary or unnecessary to retain and it makes sense if you think about it; the sheer volume of information coming in from a smart phone warrants some sort of an organic filtering, and not just for efficiency purposes it is also part of a defence mechanism, a logical consequence of the self preservation nature of our brains that do anything possible to retain energy and spend it only when strictly necessary. 

When I write something on paper it somewhat materializes whatever I am doing into something palpable and therefore real, my eyes can see it, I can touch it, it is materially present. Its curious that even in my profession I see the same pattern where there is an ever so present need to materialize the intangible; for those of you familiar with scrum, the sight of post-its being moved and posted on walls by teams of people is quite a familiar sight. 

There is definitely something to be said about being able to get a hold of something is actually there, moving it around, writing on it or passing it over to someone else, one of my team members used to say that as he moved a ticket from "In progress" to "Done", there was a sense of accomplishment very difficult to obtain on a digital device where everything is transitory by design. 

The convention of time

Ever since I was a boy I have been interested in the concept of time. One of my favourite artists has always been Salvador Dali, I used to spend a long tie looking at the distorted clocks of "The Persistence of Memory" as if they were melting from the blazing heat of the desolated desert. Later as I understood Dali was portraying the effect of the passage of time in a dream state, where time is present in somewhat of a liquid form, without a definable shape form or structure.

Today I came across a fascinating lecture by one of my favourite philosophers Alan Watts  exploring the artificial social institution that is time and the way it impacts our lives.