Back when I was a student, we had a poster hanging on the living room wall that said: Murphy’s Law: the probability of spilling coffee on your carpet is directly proportional to the price of the carpet!
What's in here
- “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” - did you know that Murphy’s law comes from the US Air Force?
- A risk register is a table that helps identify, log and track potential project risks; it includes key metrics you’ll need to tackle one by one.
- How do you go about creating a risk register in Jira, in the easiest way possible?
Did you ever notice that the day you decide to wear your pretty white shirt is in fact, the one day you end up eating pasta? That the 30-second sex scene, in an otherwise asexual movie, only starts as your mother makes her way into the room?
Welcome to Murphy’s Law and the chaotic universe we live in!
What is Murphy’s law?
Murphy's law is an epigram that typically says: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." You can also make it into "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time."
In its simplest form, Murphy's law says: if anything can go wrong, it will; but the law itself can be applied to many areas:
- Project planning: if anything can go wrong, it will; usually at the worst possible time
- Performance management: if someone can get it wrong, they will
- Risk assessment: if many things can go wrong, the one you’d least want to see happen, will happen
- Practical creativity: if you can think of 3 ways that something can go wrong, it will go wrong in a 4th way
Isn’t the universe funny? I have to say that my favorite quote (ever) is by Voltaire who says (supposedly, given I wasn’t there): “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh”.
What is the origin of Murphy’s law?
Murphy's Law was born in 1949, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It was named after a Major in the U.S. Air Force, Edward A. Murphy Jr., who specialized in development engineering and whose work mostly revolved around testing experimental designs, which meant he often dealt with things that didn’t really go according to plan.
Back then, the US Air Force was running tests (Project MX981) to see the kind of acceleration a human body could handle; of course, by using a poor volunteer strapped into a rocket sled that could accelerate up to 1,000 km/hour, then stop suddenly. 😅 Captain Edward A. Murphy Jr. had designed the harness that strapped onto the volunteer, carrying 16 sensors to measure acceleration.
As life would have it, our dear volunteer, Colonel Stapp, almost died in that experiment, and unfortunately, all of it was in vain given that the sensors registered zero! Captain Murphy, who then examined the sled, found that every one of those sensors had been installed the wrong way; all 16 of them! Which is when Murphy proclaimed: "If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those results in a catastrophe, then someone will do it that way".
This is the original form of Murphy's law.
Where is Murphy’s law used?
Murphy’s law is used in a variety of places; you wouldn’t believe how broad its application can be.
Murphy’s law in thermodynamics
Murphy’s law is found extensively in the study of thermodynamics, which looks at how energy changes from one form to another. Entropy, for example, (also called the 2nd law of thermodynamics) supports Murphy’s law by stating that whatever can go wrong, will.
If you’re into numbers 🤩 here’s a nice computation of Murphy’s law; it all comes down to probability, and of course, when we say probability, we say statistics.
Murphy’s law in finance
In statistics, we use something called standard deviation, which measures the dispersion of data with respect to an average value. What we’re trying to understand by using the standard deviation is this: based on what we usually observe, what’s the probability that our result will be different, and how so? What should we expect?
And so, in finance, we use that same standard deviation to measure risk! Which brings us to the second part of our article here: risk management.
Why do we do risk management?
No one wants to fail with their project. No one. And anyone who’s ever led a project, either fully or partly, must have had a few encounters with Mr. Murphy! Oh yes!
Now, why wouldn’t it be a simple task to manage business risk? I mean, all you need to do is identify the potential risks to your business, then create a plan that can address those risks and eliminate them, right?
Murphy's law in project management
Anything that can go wrong will; so how do you prepare for project risks and the inevitability of Murphy? How do you prevent negative events from happening?
- Know what to do when something goes wrong, i.e. when risk becomes reality
- Recover faster from disaster with a team that can execute steps immediately
- Communicate better so you can save time and money, in the case of a negative event
- Minimize the number of events you can’t control
In a world that isn’t exactly forgiving, aren’t you glad that there actually is a way to go about mitigating risks and avoiding those mistakes that can cost a whole lot? Shall we thank god, the stars and/or physics for risk registers? 😁
What is a risk register?
A project risk register (also called a risk log) is a tool that project managers use to track and monitor risks; it’s a key part of the risk management process.
What is the purpose of a risk register?
A project management risk register helps identify, log and track potential project risks; which are unexpected events that can affect your project. Any time you identify something that could have an impact on your project, you put it in the risk register. Why you may ask? Because, as projects get more complex, they become harder to manage, and so, if risks aren’t tracked properly and assessed often, something might slip through the cracks.
The way to avoid Murphy in risk management is to make sure that whatever could go wrong in your project, goes right. What does that mean?
- Identify the risks
In the process of identifying your risks, include everyone involved in the project and assign ownership; try to identify both the opportunities and the threats.
- Figure out the risk probability
What’s the probability that something will happen, and what’s the impact? Some risks have higher consequences than others, which means more resources should be allocated to them.
- Manage the risk
Put together an execution plan, as well as a contingency plan for each risk; which ones should you try to minimize, transfer or accept.
- Write it down
Put things on paper so that everyone knows what the risks and responsibilities are!
- Get stakeholders on board
Show them the benefits of your project and what’s in it for them if the project were to be successfully completed.
Who creates the project risk register?
It depends. If the project is large and complex, then the risk manager/coordinator would usually be the one creating and maintaining the risk register. However, often, that responsibility falls upon the project manager.
How to create a risk register?
A risk register is a table that basically tracks project risks; the table usually includes the following:
- ID number to quickly identify the risk
- Name/description of the risk
- Risk category that you can customize to help sort your various risks
- Probability of the risk occurring - which can either be qualitative or quantitative; qualitative would use a scale like high (3), medium (2), low (1), for example, while quantitative would be something more in line with a 3% increase in cost for example
- Impact of the risk on your project - this process is similar to probability
- Risk priority
Qualitative: you can calculate risk priority by multiplying probability and impact (for example, if you were to assign a “3” to a high probability and “2” to a medium impact, then your priority score would be calculated as 2x3 = 6)
Quantitative: it’s a little more complicated, but fundamentally what you’re trying to do here is rate your impacts in a way that allows you to compare them; a 2-week delay and 3% budget increase could both be rated as medium impact and assigned a “3” for example
- How you’ll go about the risk
- Action - in terms of the steps involved and when
- Who’s responsible for mitigating the risk
Whichever way you choose to track and assess your risks, make sure it’s standard across your project. If team members assess risks differently or fill out columns inconsistently, it makes it harder to view, track, and prioritize your project risks.
What is a risk register example?
This is a simple Jira risk register example that can help you create a risk log for your next Jira project. Every column in this table is customizable and showcases the risk metric you’d like to track.
Use Hedge to create a project risk register in Jira
Here I’d like to introduce you to Hedge, a Jira risk management plugin that allows you to build, manage and share your risk register in Jira, in a very simple way. It is built for anyone looking for an easy way to register, assess and prioritize risks in Jira Cloud, while monitoring progress and linking those risks to every day work.
Thanks to Hedge’s custom fields, you can create and modify your risk register to showcase the risk metrics you wish to track.
Also, you’ve got the ability to easily share your risk register with your team and other stakeholders so you can get their input at every turn. Not to mention that you can incorporate it into your reports and Jira dashboards, so that nothing important ever gets overlooked.
Hedge offers a complete, easy to use, easy to set up risk management tool for Jira Cloud with a set of predefined industry-standard risk management templates to choose from, and of course the ability to customize every step of the way!
Try out Hedge for free today and discover how easy it is to build your first Jira risk register!