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RADI (Risks, Assumptions, Decisions, and Issues) Tracking Sheet. Recently we had the pleasure of enjoying a great interview with Robert Vandenberg. Bob taught us about the RADI (Risks, Assumptions, Decisions, and Issues) tracking document. A great tool for any serious Project Manager.

I hope you enjoy also it!

Following you can read the complete transcript:


Hello, everyone, this is Angel Berniz at Projectmanagers.Org and today we have a special guest. He is Robert Vanderberg, Rob in the following. He’s going to show us very amazing tool that’s called RADI: Risks, Assumptions, Decisions and Issues.

Q: Hi, Rob, how are you doing?

A: Fine, Angel, how are you doing today?

Q: I’m fine, thanks. Well, can you tell us the purpose of this document?

A: This document – RADI is tended to look at things that play to each other in one central location. Let me explain how this works. If your team makes a decision. Let’s say there is an option between an option A and option B and option C, and they want to go, let’s say, we’ve selected option B. So, you write down what the decision is, what thing made you decide that, you may also make an assumption that influenced your reason for making decision B. For example, you may say ’we are building a public’s work building, or building a building in the middle of a city, let’s say Barcelona.’ And one of the assumptions you’re making is that you’ll be able to get all the necessary permits on time to be able to do that. Right after that you want to be able to put it into A category (assumptions category). The decision was made under the assumptions that you had no trouble getting the necessary permits in the time required. This is very simple but it shows us the relationship. We now that we have to get the permits. And assumption is that in order to accomplish building the building, we will get them.

Another thing is, for example risks and issues. You categorize those things as risks that you know are potential impacts that you have to deal with. You also have a relation to those you decide become issues. For example, you assume that you have permits, so one of the risks is not getting necessary permits. And then in the course of doing your moving along project you certainly find out that there are limited numbers of sewer permits that are issued each year. And that becomes an issue because you have to make sure that you (that may be a blocking issue for your project) have to be one of the few people that are granted that permit.

They all interrelate to each other, so if the issue, the risk that we’ve defined – that you don’t get the permit, becomes an issue now you’re now ’wait a minute, I have an application, I am one of 300 people who issued permits to get a sewer connection and they only put 10 per year. Well, I got one in a thirty shot.’ That’s also very low so that show a flow down effect if somebody goes ’you proceeded forward with putting the building in here. ‘Yes, but that was based upon this decision but we identified this risk and this becomes an issue because of this.’ What’s your resolution to the issue? Well, we put in our permit, we put the proper application and all of the necessary information, and we’re looking also at the alternatives. Can we find this building being demolished then we can purchase or transfer the permit. The other thing is that the human memory both individually and combined tends to forget sometimes or de storage certain facts. By writing these thing down now, especially in long terms project, you can go back later on and determine ’why did you decide this?’ Well, we decided that and these are assumptions we made at the time based upon that.

Q: OK, sounds great. During what phases along the project comes in use this tool?

A: This document/tool is basically applicable upon the whole breath of the project, from the start you were doing your analysis, right up until you do your forensics and after action. It’s a living document and you’re always reviewing it on a periodic basis, for example if you make decisions and you’re making certain assumptions you want to go back and check it. For example, decision was to build a build her etc. And the assumption was to get all the necessary permits. That triggers to kind of look at your team and say ’how we do the permitting, is this still a valid assumption?’ And if you’re a person dealing with that aspect, they say ’It’s a valid assumption except from the sewer.’ Remember we had this issue here. Ok, so that puts the project potentially at risk if you are not one of those 10 people that get the sewer permit during that period of time. When we were first starting out, our assumption was, we’re getting the permit in order to this decision to work. You use it as a living document to living back at this cycle through.

Another one may be that on of the assumption was that the political climate was ripe or was receptive. The people who were part of the local government etc. Those organization change over time. There’s elections and new government comes in, etc. So you want to review that and say is there still receptivity to having this new build put in. You may have somebody of a new local government that wants to preserve old buildings or make buildings look like the architecture of the neighborhood and yours is definitely not that way. So now that assumption has been put at risk because of something you don’t have control over, but you had to assume in the beginning that you had that ability.  World cup is running into that, because assumption were made more than 4-5 years ago when they put in the bid that certain thing will be done, certain work projects will be taken care of etc. And that was the predication for Brazil winning the bid. If we look historically now that’s not the case, a lot of thing did not get done, a lot of projects did not get completed. But, the assumption was by FIFA that Brazil was going to honor their promises and put in all of the thing they put in this part of their bid, and as a collateral fallout to their plans right now for the summer Olympics.

Q: So this document can be some kind of relationship model between these two parts?

A: It is a relationship model between all four parts. There are two main relationships, risks and issues, and there is relationship of decisions and assumptions. But also there is a relationship between decision and risk, for example: I’ve identified a risk. In the first the place i talked about we put in our permit to address the sewer issue but also looking at decision was made to investigate whether or not we can buy an existing permit. The assumption being that I can purchase a building that’s been torn down obviously that doesn’t need sewer anymore. Can i purchase and transfer that.

Another thing may be why you consider this a high enough risk. So people may not see that risk as obvious. So you want to put down your assumptions why you have that risk. So there is an interrelations between all of them and by memorializing them at the time you make it, it’s easy to show people what you thing was at the moment that you made that relationship with each other, because again if you take a long term project, something that is going over months and years, people change, people swap out, conditions change, and some of them may say ’that was absurd’ and you say ’two years ago that was not absurd’- that was a valid assumption because of this and this. Now, over time certain conditions change to make that an absurd decision. But remember, you are thinking in the present, we were thinning in the past and what was happening in the past.

Q: Who creates and maintains this document?

A: well, the project manager provides the starting point for it and gets the team together and they start looking at everything, but in my way of doing thing it’s the project team itself the decision makers, they are the participants in the projects that are associated with that who help to contribute to those things. One, it makes it inclusive, if you are doing a decision to put the building in a location you have many people that are looking at the fact: there’s the architect and they say ’you’re person who’s dealing with urban planning, you’re person who’s dealing with the permits and the building codes etc.’ The owner of the building, the person you’re building it for, you want to get all of those together and over time they going to have interest in it and so they always going to be look at their particular assumptions or imputes to that decision and saying ’yes, that’s still valid.’ Hopefully your owner is going to say ’yes, the budget is still valid you still have the funds necessary to do that.’

Economic, the climates can change very rapidly and your hope that if there is some constraints for the project on a financial stand point the person who’s providing the funding can still say ’yes, i can beat the funds.’ That allows you to also be able to stack up all of the points or inputs that go into the decision or the risk that could be issues because again you might have a risk that certainly reaches the trick point that now becomes an issue. You say, for example, changing government can impact whether or not we’re still going to be abele to the building. I didn’t see what government, i said changing government, could be local, could be state, could be national, could be EU in your case.

Therefore, when there’s election it’s perfectly valid to be able to say ’our assumption is that there will be no major shift in governmental policies which will cause this risk to become an issue.’ While over time you have elections results it’s valid to be able to look at that. The balk it’s rolled down the hill by the project manager, the momentum of the document, because it’s a living document, is maintained by the team or at least the core member of the team, depending how large the team is. They can all bring their points, because sometimes it can be one member doing one small thing that may take to look and go ’assumption e.g. 32 – we got a problem here.’ Assumption 32 may be very minor assumption but suddenly it becomes very huge and by having the team review it you have many imputes into it and it also provides means focusing the buying and investing the investment that people can and may maintain in the project, because they’re part of it. It is a sort of a focal document to keep people interested.

Q: What are the benefits of this document for the product team?

A: I kind of alluded to that in my last statement because one of the thing is serves us away for all of the team members to provide contribution early on when you looking at things like any one of these areas and being able to put in their inputs. Somebody may say ’this is a risk’ and you may say ’we all know this is a risk and this would be a tripping point ’ and somebody may come up and say ’I would like to add one more’ and he explains it and you say ’ok, that makes sense, it’s kind of absurd but if it does happen its probability it’s there, its possibility might be low, but the resulting impact if it does occur is severe, so add that.’ And there tone of the ownership because now the person said ’hey, i made a contribution’.

Later on, if that one possibility increases to a point where now it’s a level of certainty. One, this person has said that they contributed to something that becomes valid and now they become the part of the solutions. The other thing is does it maintain to focalization with all of the team relative to what is happening with is—and what have we done in the past   so that we can review it and keep it fresh in our minds. With this type of thing i always like to periodically review it as part of the team project meetings, so that we make sure we’re still on track with those things, do we still agree with that, is it still relevant to us. I think of it like pruning a bonsai tree, we all contributed our parts to it and now as we go along the we’re kind of pruning it, trimming it a little bit, sometime we say ’it’s still a valid risk, the government thing – we had elections we got the same government, they didn’t’ change anything so it’s still stated in. Do we all agree? Yeah, that’s hasn’t changed any.

Another one may becoming the financing. How’s the financing doing? Very well but collateral thing has come up. – what’s that? The public works bill is coming into play. If its funded it will cause a lot of road work in the neighborhood that we’re talking about, so our schedule may need to be adjusted because we may not have access during the time that we want to build the building for our tracks because they’ll tear up the roads. So, this allows the team to hopefully stir thoughts and considerations along the way and continue to realize the project entity, especially in the long term project where many influences that waver up and down, go away, become big etc. And it hopefully spires them to start thinking about those moments proactively, rather than reactively.

Q: What are the benefits for the stakeholders and the sponsors?

A: For the estate holders and sponsors it gives two benefits. One, they understand why certain things were identified the way they were. For example, instead of just saying ’permitting is a risk’ that’s big thing because many dozens of permits, right?’ But if you say ’permitting is a risk but you break the issue we have relative to permitting is this they can focus on things and also it provides the ability for them to see a linkages between a decision.’ A lot of time people would sit there and go ’we’re going to go this way’, and there’s a people may say ’how did they to that conclusion?’, and you can go ’we came to this decision because we assumed this, we identified this risk but we felt the risk wasn’t large enough and this are our reasons why.’ There’s a comprehensive thought process going on, it wasn’t that somebody said there at the bar eating and drinking wine and said ’you know what, let’s just do it this way’ right upon the bar note and next morning they come out and say ’i guess we made their decision. How did we come to that conclusion? I don’t know but we wrote it down so it must valid.’

You want to be sure that you really show the process because that increases the confidence in the stake holders and the sponsors that you will have a dynamic working living process it constantly reviews everything. One of the things is that, if you reach a point where let’s say some of your key decisions are now in jeopardy due to changing government influence and economic down you’re going to create an office building like an art institute and economic downturn is we all know fine arts doesn’t necessarily get a fair share, or equal cut, so your assumption of doing a fine arts institute now kind of goes away, maybe your funding sources are now dried up. Especially when you trying to get a little from the local government, a little from the national government a little from museum, a little here, you have a whole confluence built up with a lot of different streams. What if one of those streams starts to dry up? Then you need back to your sponsors and say ’we have a jeopardy here, this it’s a risk we identified becoming an issue because of this’ and you continue to focus those discussion – this decision is valid and this is not and you need to focus those discussion and you avoid people from looking at the ’the sky is falling’ question to what truly is falling and how do we address it.

Q: What is the benefit for the customer?

A: The benefit for the customer is the fact that you continue to be able to give reassurance that all of the things you started off in terms of your all of the decisions, issues, risks and assumptions you made are continuing to be adjusted and reviewed along the way towards the purpose of supporting the continuing of the project and that you’re going to be delivering successful something of value. And that’s one of the things that I always put – are we still delivering value?

Let’s talk about the fine arts institute. Here is a thing. It’s not a hard skill getting people who have computer skills and starting academy to teach people how to decoding and something like that. And suddenly you start looking and start realizing that there’s a lot of institutes related organizations because of economic downturn (going out of business, shuttering up, consolidating, there is much funding in that area). We can probably give you an art institute in the end. The question is – is it going to be just an empty building and not be able to serve any purpose afterwards. And as hard as that might be to customers, it’s sometimes less painful that ask that quest go through that debate and maybe say ’maybe we shouldn’t continue, may we should start throwing good money after bad, we’ve reached the point where is not valuable anymore?’ Especially in the long term projects with so many influences. Shorter term projects like IT generally you’re looking at a cycle to 6-8 months, sometimes 4 months, you can see the value and ask of the value proposition because that’s the time people’s minds can understand. But when you talking long term and all of these things that you documented that were done 5-7 years ago – there’s a lot of changes during that time. And so, what seemed like a great idea 5 years ago, 3 years down the lines questioning these things and looking at these things you may want to just say ’is this still a good idea?’ and ask the customer ’are we still going to provide something of value?’ and if customer says ’yes, I still believe in this, it’s a passion of mine.’ Remember they’re paying the bills and in the end if they say yes, you write it down you put it into your repository but you’ve done your diligence in terms of asking the question. You’ve done your diligence towards your team in the terms of ’customer still wants to move forward’ That might not be the best thing to do but we’ve done our diligence of asking the question and if they reaffirmed that’s what they want to do then we’re going to move forward with it, because the customer still has that passion to want it and to do something with it once we deliver it. And that’s a perfectly valid thing to do.

You always want to make sure that the customer engaged. You always want to make sure that the customer is seeing the facts because again it’s a project manager you want as the shepherd and as the representative of the project team you want to know that in the end you produced the building for fine arts and stuff like that and give him the keys, but you want to walk by it later on and say ’look at that, there are people there, they’re doing something with art, so you know that the building wasn’t build just for the sake of building at, it’s actually serving a function in the community it’s actually contributing.

So the benefit is really holistic, plus it also make sure that everything has a accountability and traceability across the board. From the sponsors, estate holders, customers, the project team. Can always go to central repository and look at something, especially at your project teams. Very rarely do you have the same people from start to finish, especially in larger projects. So when the people ask ’why did you made this decision?’ you can say ’ok, go to the RADI click on the link and you’ll be able to see the decisions that were evolved with that’. They can see the history of that and gain that experience. So they at least understand how you made that decision. They may not agree with it-that’s fine. They may not thing it’s valid anymore and you say ’next time we doing a review which is a month from now bring an input in.’ It has a global benefit, it has a global functionality. It has to be treated as a living document. If you just do it in the beginning and never touch it again, and then suddenly something comes up (two or three years down the road), and you end up ‘why we didn’t we think of that?’ You may have thought of that if you continued to use the RADI as a document to move forward and to be alive and living document.

Outro: Thank you Bob for joining us today at Projectmanagers.Org, it’s been a real pleasure. You’re very interesting, and your RADI tool. I hope to see you again in the future.

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