Home      Contact       Sponsors/Exhibitors       Download Brochure

Tutorial 8: Effective Project Retrospectives and Intuitive Risk Management


Target Audience:
Managers, Process Improvement Group Members, Risk Managers. Ideally, small groups from the same company will attend; this will give maximum leverage and usable results.

Level: Beginning to Intermediate

What will you learn :

  • How to conduct an effective project lessons learned session (retrospective)
  • How to transform the retrospective outputs into specific process improvements, issues and risks for future work
  • How to use an intuitive approach to energize risk identification and management

This is a hands-on tutorial, combining two group-oriented techniques into an integrated mechanism for improving future project performance. The session will teach people how to gather useful lessons learned by conducting an effective project retrospective. The lessons are transformed into learnings in the form of specific process improvements, issues, and risks related to future work. An introduction to intuitive risk management will help participants view risk differently, and will provide methods for sustaining and extending the initial risk list over time. Used collectively, these methods will energize risk management, and complement more formal risk techniques.


  • The first part of the tutorial will introduce a simple method for learning from experience—facilitated retrospectives.
    • Often, lessons learned sessions are perfunctory and ineffective, resulting in lessons “noted”, but nothing learned.
    • In contrast, well-facilitated retrospectives provide a powerful tool for learning in development and engineering organizations
  • Effective facilitation is central to the success of the retrospectives.
    • Having a well-structured methodology keeps the retrospective process outputs relevant.
  • The retrospective techniques demonstrated and presented in this tutorial are easy to apply, yet surprisingly effective in the engineering context.
    • The techniques will be demonstrated and practiced by the participants, with exercises abbreviated to fit the available time.
  • By systematically structuring the retrospective process and outputs of the retrospective, the outputs can be used directly as inputs to risk management, issue management, and process improvement programs.
    • Leveraging the existing process infrastructure dramatically increases the chances of success in future efforts.
  • This approach builds on a few intuitively obvious concepts:
    • If we didn’t fix it, it is probably still broken.  If something was a problem before and nothing changed, it is either a risk going forward, or an open issue that still needs to be addressed.
    • Fixing problems is reactive; preventing problems is proactive.
    • To prevent a problem, we probably need to do something differently—in other words, change the process.
    • Process improvements can be used to mitigate many risks.
    • Often systemic risks can only be mitigated by changing the process.
  •  In the second part of this tutorial, participants will learn how to approach risk management as an intuitive activity that applies equally well to everyday life and to project management.
  • The “intuitive” risk management approach will be taught by a combination of instructor lecture, demonstrations and hands-on brain-storming activities.
    • The premise of intuitive Risk Management is that risk management is something we all do, every day– and, it is important to us.
    • The same mindset can transform risk management into a fundamental part of a project’s everyday activities.
  • Participants will take home a quick, cost effective mechanism for risk identification, categorization, and prioritization.
    • As described in the SEI’s risk management paradigm, communication is central to implementing a successful risk management process. But, you need to have something to communicate about, so the risk management cycle begins with identifying risks.
    • Risk identification can be plodding and pedantic—or, “fast and furious”.  This tutorial will focus on a “fast and furious” (even fun) approach to risk identification.
  • Risk identification is followed by analysis, planning, tracking, and control. Analysis can be highly quantitative when good data are available, or can be based on expert judgment.
    • The tutorial will present ways to make systematic expert judgments about risk.
    • An overview of risk mitigation strategies will also be introduced.
  • The risk management examples and exercises will be drawn from everyday activities—getting to work, managing your health, and real project work.
  • Project teams and people from inside the same organization are encouraged to attend as a group, and to use this part of the tutorial as a real risk identification session.


F. Michael Dedolph
,  CMMI Project Technical Lead
Computer Sciences Corporation

Michael has been involved with Software Engineering for more than 25 years in the Air Force, at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), at Lucent Technologies, and at Computer Sciences Corporation. Michael's experience includes work in systems architecture, risk management, process improvement, technical education, systems engineering, project management, and development. At the SEI, he was part of the team that developed the legacy SCE and CBA-IPI appraisal methods, and also worked in the Risk Program.