Information Gathering

Information gathering encompasses several techniques, including brainstorming, the Delphi technique, interviewing, and root cause identification. The goal of these techniques is to end up with a comprehensive list of risks at the end of the meeting. Let's take a quick look at each of these techniques.


Brainstorming is probably the most often used technique of the Identify Risks process. You've probably used this technique many times for many purposes. Brainstorming involves getting subject matter experts, team members, risk management team members, and anyone else who might benefit the process in a room and asking them to start identifying possible risk events. The trick here is that one person's idea might spawn another idea, and so on so that by the end of the session you've identified all the possible risks. The facilitator could start the group off by going through the categories of risks to get everyone thinking in the right direction.

Nominal Group Technique

This technique is mentioned in the brainstorming tool and technique in the PMBOKĀ® Guide. The Nominal Group Technique is a type of brainstorming or can be conducted as a mass interview technique.

This technique requires the participants to be together in the same room. Each participant has paper and pencil in front of them, and they are asked to write down what risks they think the project faces. Using sticky-backed notes is a good way to do this. Each piece of paper should contain only one risk. The papers are given to the facilitator, who sticks them up to the wall or a white board. The panel is then asked to review all the risks posted on the board; rank them and prioritize them, in writing; and submit the ranking to the facilitator. Once this is done, you should have a complete list of risks.

Delphi Technique

The Delphi technique is a lot like brainstorming, only the people participating in the meeting don't necessarily know each other. In fact, the people participating in this technique don't all have to be located in the same place and usually participate anonymously. You can use email to facilitate the Delphi technique easily.

What you do is assemble your experts, from both inside and outside the company, and provide them with a questionnaire to identify potential risks. They in turn send their responses back to you (or to the facilitator of this process). All the responses are organized by content and sent back to the Delphi members for further input, additions, or comments. The participants then send their comments back one more time, and the facilitator compiles a final list of risks.

The Delphi technique is a great tool that allows consensus to be reached quickly. It also helps prevent one person from unduly influencing the others in the group and thus prevents bias in the outcome because the participants are usually anonymous and don't necessarily know how others in the group responded.


Interviews are question-and-answer sessions held with others, including other project managers, subject matter experts, stakeholders, customers, the management team, project team members, and users. These folks provide you with possible risks based on their past experiences with similar projects.

This technique involves interviewing those folks with previous experience on projects similar to yours or those with specialized knowledge or industry expertise. Ask them to tell you about any risks that they've experienced or that they think might happen on your project. Show them the WBS and your list of assumptions to help get them started thinking in the right direction.

Root Cause Identification

Did you ever hear someone say you're looking at the symptoms and not at the problem? That's the idea here. Root cause identification involves digging deeper than the risk itself and looking at the cause of the risk. This helps define the risk more clearly, and it also helps you later when it's time to develop the response plan for the risk.

Exam Spotlight



Tap Directly Into Your Creative Mind... And Easily Access YOUR Million-Dollar Ideas Ideas are the lifeblood of success... and the best ideas originate with brainstorming. Brainstorming can help you successfully fix any problem, build any business, generate any plan, or develop any story. But the problem is that most people have no clue how to effectively brainstorm - either by themselves or with groups. You can waste a lot of time coming up with old, boring ideas that won't work... and the whole time you actually believe that you are brainstorming.

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