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How to Build a Risk Matrix from Scratch (and Why you may Never want to Use one)

A workshop by Mark Powell
Consultant, Attwater Consulting

14 October 2020, 09:00 AM


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About this workshop

The Risk Matrix (other names: Risk Heatmap, PI Graph, etc.) seems ubiquitous in project management and/or Risk Management these days. Despite that, there has been an outcry from some circles demeaning the risk matrix as a bad tool: that it is very bad for decision making. But is it really?

There was a time that when a project needed to make some important decisions, science and math were used to build a risk matrix from first principles. And this happened many times during the project; whenever important decisions needed to be made a new risk matrix focusing specifically on those decisions was built from scratch, and then used to make the decisions.

Nowadays, there are many tools on the market that will build a risk matrix for you, some free, some online, and some very expensive. Also, many risk management consultants will build one for you too. Yet it is very difficult today to find anybody who uses the actual science and math to build one. Building a risk matrix using the science and math seems to be a lost art.

This workshop will walk through construction of a risk matrix using the science and math. Nobody ever said that risk management or project decisions were easy, and building a risk matrix from scratch isn’t either. Proper construction of a risk matrix is pretty complex. And we will indeed show that is possible to use a risk matrix to make good decisions, but you may end up never wanting to use one again.

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Mark Powell

Mark Powell has practiced Risk Management for over 45 years in a wide variety of technical environments including defense, aerospace, energy, and commercial. His roles in these environments have included project manager, engineering manager, chief systems engineer, and research scientist. He has been sharing his hard won practical risk expertise by teaching risk management at the graduate level since 1998 at the University of Idaho, the University of Houston, Stevens Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas at Austin. He is an active member of Sigma Xi, ISBA, AIAA, INFORMS, and helped to found the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of INCOSE in 1991. Mr. Powell has served INCOSE as Chair of the Risk Management Working Group, and as Assistant Director for Systems Engineering Processes. He has since 2002 been regularly invited to present risk management tutorials and seminars at INCOSE International Symposia, IEEE Conferences and Symposia, PMI Conferences, and for numerous other professional organizations. Mr. Powell has maintained an active engineering and management consulting practice in North America, Europe, and Asia since 1999.

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