A Tool For Your Toolbox: Risk Poker

This is an idea that I read about in Managing the Design Factory (detailed outline). Around page 226, Reinertsen says:

Let us start with the first source of technical risk, the high-risk subsystem. Which subsystems have high technical risk? To assess this we must perform our project-level analysis to determine how each program objective (expense, cost, performance, and speed) will impact profits. Then we assess each subsystem to determine how it might impact each of these factors. The easiest way to do this is to use a team meeting in which members estimate the downside risk for each subsystem in terms of magnitude and probability. This can be done by having each member assess risks independently, having a discussion on why different team members have rated risk differently, and then having team members reassess risks. The output of such a meeting is a surprisingly good understanding of project risk. Contrary to the common view that unknown risks are most important, most teams are surprisingly aware of where they are likely to fail in a program.

This reminds me so much of the Agile practice of planning poker that I’m dubbing it “risk poker”. Both practices make sense to me because they use crowdsourcing to solve the problem. I think software teams are more aware of the risks on the project than they typically give themselves credit for, leading to the paradoxical value of this practice. By doing this practice, teams make explicit the knowledge that they already have but are often hesitant to act on for one reason or another.

While doing some basic research to see if this term had been employed yet, I also stumbled across protection poker, which deals more with security risks.

Perhaps I’m reinventing the wheel and risk poker is a well-known concept with a different name. Has anyone employed something like this on a project?

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