The DoD PSM’s Role in Risk Management
During system development, the Program Manager (PM) and Chief Engineer lead the program’s risk management process, overseeing the identification and analysis of risks, issues, and opportunities (RIO) and the subsequent mitigation of risks and issues or exploitation (realization) of opportunities. The DoD RIO Guide for Defense Acquisition Programs states “Risk management is an endeavor that begins with requirements formulation ... [and] should occur throughout the life cycle.” Furthermore, it states that “PMs and staff should shape and control risk, not just observe progress and react to risks that are realized.” (emphasis added)
As a key member of the program leadership team, the Product Support Manager (PSM) must ensure the product support management team is involved in RIO management – shaping and controlling what can go wrong, what has or is certain to go wrong, and what can be improved, respectively. This typically takes the form of participating in risk working groups and boards, and for product support items in the risk register assessing likelihood (probability) and consequence (impact), and devising mitigations to take risks from “red” to “yellow” or “green.”
The DoD RIO Guide emphasizes care in avoiding creation of a “shoot the messenger” culture. As such, the PSM should not seek to de-emphasize "red" risks (those with a high likelihood and/or consequence), but instead use them to advantage by elevating visibility for additional resources, management priority, etc. The PSM should also carefully scrutinize mitigation plans, ferreting out any implied “and a miracle happens here” steps in the middle of the burn-down steps. Not all risks can be avoided or transferred, but critical thinking and creative solutions can often devise effective mitigations.
PSMs should regularly identify and review opportunities for potential cost savings or materiel benefits like improved reliability and maintainability. Program risk dollars (typically investment funds set aside to disposition risks) may be applied to exploit (bring about) opportunities that have a positive return on investment.
Finally, PSMs should ensure alignment between the Life Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) (paragraph 4.12) and the program’s RIO process and ensure LCSP updates reflect the RIO register(s) regarding significant product support risks, issues, and opportunities.
To explore this important topic further, encourage readers to consult the DoD LCSP Outline v3.0, as well as PMT 0170, Risk Management, and our recent DAU LOG Blog entitled “DAU Risk, issue, Opportunity (RIO) Management Resources”.