Lisagor: Developing risk managers

Workshop teaches federal managers how to cope with five major IT program risks

In my experience, too many information technology projects promise the sky, but instead they exceed their budgets and schedules and disappoint users. Although there are many reasons for those failures, the lessons to be learned from them are rarely taught in classrooms, especially in the context of specific agency cultures and histories.

Training from the Program Management Institute (PMI) provides an essential foundation for government program managers (PMs), but it doesn’t necessarily prepare them to deal with many of the everyday problems that arise on most projects, especially as those challenges relate to their own organizational and contractual relationships.

Experienced PMs are too busy fighting their own forest fires to concentrate on transferring knowledge to newer managers. As experienced managers retire, lack of knowledge management will become even more pronounced and the effect potentially more devastating.

Do any of these everyday problems look familiar?

  • Vague program objectives.
  • Unrealistic or missed schedules.
  • Lack of automated support tools.
  • Poor requirements baseline and traceability.
  • Ineffective document review processes.
  • Lack of understanding of performance-based contracting.
  • Insufficient data for budget control.
  • Poorly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Inadequate risk identification and/or risk monitoring and control.
  • Inaccurate schedule and cost status information.
  • Lessons learned not passed on to newer program managers.

  • For several years, I’ve been exploring various ways to provide cost-effective, reality-based training to help PMs and contracting officers correct such everyday challenges. Together with the General Services Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center, I developed a one-day Reality-Based Risk Management assessment and customized training program to impart valuable lessons using a combination of role-playing scenarios, case studies and group exercises.

    The idea was to offer a one-day workshop to help program managers mitigate future risks and increase the probability of project success.

    The workshop teaches managers about these following five major IT program-risk activities using real-life examples drawn from their own organizations’ experiences:

  • Risk planning.
  • Risk identification.
  • Risk analysis.
  • Risk mitigation.
  • Risk monitoring, control and assessment.

  • The first two workshops were well-received. I hope that more managers will have the opportunity to deal with real-life challenges in a safe setting.

    We must prevent the continued failure of so many IT programs and give auditors at the Government Accountability Office less to write about.

    Lisagor offers his training on Celerity Works’ GSA MOBIS Schedule GS-10F-0380S at or He is also the author of “The Enlightened Manager,” available as a free download at Reach Lisagor at


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