Project Management Institute

The pathogen construct in risk analysis

To analyze project risk, project managers typically identify the probabilities and consequences of threatening external conditions and events. But this effort is also an under-recognized process for clarifying an organization's qualities and deficiencies. This article examines why and how project managers must shift their focus--when analyzing project risk--from an external orientation to an internal orientation, one that involves viewing an organization's and a team's approach to managing risk in relation to each stakeholder's interpretations of risk, noting how these interpretations shape one's responses to risk. In doing so, it defines the concept of pathogen as a subjective force that creates both risks and opportunities. It overviews the authors' methodology for studying the pathogens that have affected how eight organizations (four in the United Kingdom (UK), four in China) responded to project risks.
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