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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Some Changes to Risk Identification: PESTLE, TECOP and VUCA, oh my!

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Niccolo Machiavelli

On my second read of the PMBOK® Sixth Edition (no comments please) and I ran across some interesting items under “Identify Risks: Tools and Techniques”.

PMI® has regrouped and moved several items around in this section. Information Gathering has changed to Data Gathering, and “root cause analysis” has been moved to a newly formed Data Analysis. Here you will find the newly demoted “assumptions analyses" has been combined with “constraint analysis”. “Checklist analysis” was demoted and nestled under Data Gathering.

“SWOT analysis” (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) also received a demotion and is now nestled under Data Analysis with the also demoted and renamed “document analysis”. Poor “diagramming techniques” was stripped of it’s elevated status and is now just a reference in the Definition section at the back of the book. As if this wasn’t enough indignity, its ½ page “influence diagram” chart was completely removed!

But the greatest affront was saved for my old friend, the Delphi Technique. I first heard that term over a decade ago when my instructor explained this mysterious and exotic sounding tool while preparing me for the PMP exam. I remembered how cool and sophisticated it sounded when the instructor said “Delphi Technique”. It always made me think of ancient Greece where the Oracle of Delphi held the key to the fulfillment of one’s fate. Awesome!

Now it isn’t even referenced in the Index! I never once used it in an actual project, but I’ll miss it anyway…

I also learned you can use the Index (a svelte 29 pages) to reference the Alphabetical Glossary (31 pages)!

I told you the PMBOK had grown! More on that here: www.projectmanagementforum.net.

You might read the information I just presented and concluded that the section was consolidated and streamlined. And you would be wrong! PMI added the following “Tools and Techniques”: Interpersonal and Team Skills, Prompt Lists and Meetings. Even without the PMBOK explanation, I’m sure that you can figure out what two of the three are.

Prompt Lists is an interesting section because it provides several examples that I have never heard of, and I have the lofty PMI-RMP certification! Prompt lists are supposed to help you take a structured approach to risk identification by helping you think about risk in different ways. The new PMBOK examples are PESTLE, TECOP and VUCA. Logically, I went to the Index and Glossary. Nothing. I even checked the Common Acronyms. Nope. Internet here we come!

PESTLE – political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental. I’m not opposed to this list, but I like to understand why it is important. Other than finding out "it's a list", nothing. Wikipedia did provide a wide variety of variations such as SLEPT, STEPE, STEEPLE, STEEPLED, DESTEP, SPELIT and even STEER. OK then.

TECOP – technical, economical, commercial, organizational and political. Even Wikipedia went “huh” and shrugged its cyber shoulders. I had to piece together information from several sites that aggressively tried to sell me stuff. OK, it’s a list that has significant overlap with the first list – got it! Still no explanation for the groupings, but why not?

VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The Wikipedia page was a little thin, but at least there was an explanation. This came out of the U.S. Army War College’s attempt to describe the multilateral world we were facing after the cold war.

Stepping back from the obvious question of “why these particular examples?”, the changes to this section make sense. Some of these appear to be change for change sake, but the groupings are more logical than before.

But I am going to miss the Delphi Technique…


I am amazed at how “tools” are making technical work possible for untrained people like me. As I shamelessly plug my weekly blog (available at www.projectmanagementforum.net!) I am learning a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), metadata tags, connecting to other sites and making my site “bot” friendly – and I don’t even know what a “bot” is! And by learn, I mean I can follow simple instructions that my web host is kind enough to provide me. Amazingly, it all works! Thank goodness for the geniuses behind the scenes who help people like me do things like this! And I also think combining Maya Angelou and Niccolo Machiavelli quotes in the same article is awesome!


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