Anyone reading this article has most likely worked within a risk management system. So, let’s try to keep this short and discuss the 3 major differences.
Any risk management system takes what you know about your system and translates that information into a “priority list”. That is, a list of projects that should be accomplished to mitigate the expected risks. Most likely, managers and their bosses tweak this to create the official list. Somewhere in that process is usually a risk matrix that combines your likelihood and consequence guesses into a number useful for ranking. Three by three matrices are popular for their simplicity. Sometimes higher-level management dictates other sizes such as 5 x 5.
The larger the matrix, the more effort your team will spend debating each risk. Since management expects to re-jigger the resulting priority list anyway, a lot of that effort is wasted. I prefer 3 x 3 matrices as the perfect size for good results without wasted efforts.
In last month’s article (this article is third in a series), a definition of sustainment risk was provided:
SUSTAINMENT RISK: A risk that can be shown to impact the mission via the system readiness factors.
Recall from the previous articles that your system readiness factors are 2 to 6 system independent characteristics that, if violated, will affect the system’s ability to perform its mission. For instance, here two: The vast majority of systems must be both reliable when used and available when needed.
Besides the focus on readiness factors, another major difference between sustainment risk systems and all other risk systems is the need to account for schedule time. For instance, in a program’s risk system, the program schedules are set. Moving a schedule has significant consequences. In fact, for programs, requirements are often traded for schedule with a firm resolution to deal with those consequences in the sustainment phase. (Or rather have those poor sustainment guys and gals deal with it.)
Once in the sustainment phase, those tight timing constraints do not exist. “Time to impact” becomes an important factor in risks. This is important enough it needs to be built into your sustainment risk management system. See the figure for one example of how to do this.
This figure also can be a great illustration of another key difference in your sustainment risk management system. Monthly sustainment risk meetings serve as a focus for sharing this management model and your philosophy. One part of your philosophy, of course, is to encourage improvements. It is likely that the process this figure illustrates will generate much consternation and suggestions for improvement. Be very open to having some of these kinds of discussions during the meeting, but feel free to issue action items to take long discussions off-line for reporting later.
In the same vein, if you find yourself adjudicating the following kinds of questions, many will be anxious to stifle the discussion, resume the meeting, complete it, and get out of there. Keep that tension going for a bit, it is healthy and useful to you. It helps your build the team’s commitment to the warfighter mission and commitment to the sustainment process.
How is this risk related to reliability? I just don’t see it.
But this has nothing to do with the mission.
Why do you think this will impact us that soon? It’s just test equipment.
You haven’t explained how the “if” leads to the “then”.
We already have a risk with that title.
This doesn’t seem like a propulsion risk, more like a systems engineering risk.
It is not appropriate for you to say that lack of data is a risk.
This last question illustrates the third biggest difference between sustainment risk systems and other risk systems. Yes, lack of data is a risk. It should be presented at a sustainment risk meeting.
Visualize an imaginary matrix of all your readiness factor versus the testing and observation you are investing to completely observe your system. Perhaps the area least monitored or tested is survivability against enemy attack? This should tell you to expend more resources in that area. Or someday, you will regret it. (Imagination is best used, because a real matrix with any fidelity would be ridiculously expensive. More on this in the next article.)
To recap: Readiness factors, timing, culture, and data. These are the major differences between a sustainment risk system and any other. You’re a smart leader. You’ll probably think of more. But if this article tickles your brain, you may want to read my AIAA SciTech paper on this subject: “First Steps in Implementing Weapon System Sustainment Model”.
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