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Top project management disaster of all time?


Bruce 'Asteroid Hunter' CaveyThis hasn’t happened yet but was so close last weekend. According to a news story a number of asteroids just narrowly missed the earth and one may have been as near as the communications satellites in orbit. The project team watching out for this action are the scientists at NASA’s Near Earth Object Programme Office.

No pressure on them then - particularly as a big one is predicted to hit the earth every 1200 years and I can’t remember the last one (which means it must be upon us :-)). 

How do you think they asses the risk of damage to the earth and what categories of impact (literally) and probability do they have in place? Let alone the mitigation plans, such as sending a rocket out to alter the asteroids orbit around the sun so as to miss us.

It is reported that  less than 1% of mid-size asteroids have been identified.  Therefore,  it should be a case of how do we detect the ones we can’t see before they are on top of us, as when they hit they will do a significant amount of damage as was the case a few weeks ago.

To a much lesser extent this sounds like the same risks we have with most projects in industry. We can spot the big risks quite easily, going over budget, not enough resources etc., but where they tend to suddenly 'impact' is in an Application Development test cycle where (typically) something happens to a connected system that was not expected.

This rightly highlights the need for testing  but business projects are such that the change to process for an Operations team might but just as tricky as predicting near earth collisions - that is, if you don’t manage the risks around the people, culture and change management.

The good news is it might not be quite as serious as asteroid spotting and some risk can be accepted within appetite boundaries ... if you do the research and forecast correctly.

I'd love to hear from you about some of your disasters (suitably anonymised of course).