Project Risk Management: Fallback vs Workaround for PMP Exam
In project management, once the original plan does not proceed as expected or there are any changes in the external environments, the Project Management will need to investigate whether changes to the original plan is needed. This is where Fallback and Workaround would need to be implemented. However, Aspirants should need to note that Fallback and Workaround are quite different and they are to be implemented in different situations.
Fallback and Workaround
- Fallback: a fallback plan is a plan developed to deal with risks that have been identified during project planning
- for identified risks
- known unknowns
- Workaround: a workaround is the unplanned response the Project Manager need to take to deal with emerging risks and risks that are passively accepted as the risk response during project execution (i.e. there are no pre-determined risk response plan in place)
- for unidentified risks or risks that are passively accepted (note: risks that are accepted actively will be dealt with a Fallback)
- unknown unknowns
Note: Risks can be either accepted actively or passively:
- active acceptance means the identified risk is accepted without any response to reduce or eliminate the chance of occurrence but measures are planned (i.e. fallback) to deal with it once it occurs
- passive acceptance means the identified risk is accepted without any response altogether (maybe the chance of occurrence is too low or the effect too minimal), just wait and see if workaround is needed once it occurs.
Let’s take the project of exam study and preparation as an example to illustrate the concept of Fallback and Workaround.
Timothy, another promising project manager, has determined to get certified in two months’ time. Tim has formulated a study plan for his exam:
- Week 1-4: finish the online course by watching the course videos on the computer at home and get the 35 Contact Hours for the exam
- Week 5-6: complete the exam application and take free mock exams to bridge any knowledge gap
- Week 7: take a week off for relaxation
- Week 8: last minute revisions and take the exam at the end of Week 8
Tim has also identified two most common risks and their fallback plans:
- not able to finish online course on time: download the PMP® courses onto his mobile phone and watch the exam prep courses during transit and running
- not able to get the recommended results (70%-80%) for the free mock exams: purchase a paid exam simulator for more practices (at extra costs)
Now when it is at the end of Week 5, Tim is caught in an accident that keeps him hospitalized for 1 week. Tim has to immediately develop a workaround plan this time by moving the relaxation week (Week 7) up to Week 5 and work on the mock exams in Week 6 – 7 to make up the loss time.
Though both Fallback and Workaround are used to deal with risks when they occur, Aspirants would need to remember that:
- Fallback is pre-developed risk response strategies for identified risks in order to protect the original project plan (the costs deal with identified risks are included in the contingency reserve)
- Workaround is immediate risk response strategies for unidentified risks (or identified risks that have been accepted passively) in order to contain the damages to the project plan (the costs deal with identified risks can be obtained from the management reserve upon management approval)