Agile risk management checklist — check and tune your practice

By Nick Butler


Two members of a Scrum team discuss tasks from the Agile risk management checklist on a Scrum board.

Nobody wants their software development project to fail, but it happens all the time. This Agile risk management checklist lets you assess how well you currently manage risk. And it helps you identify steps you can take to reduce risk in the future. Improve your risk management today and deliver more successful projects tomorrow.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • the Agile risk management model underlying the checklist
  • the most effective way to put the checklist to work.

The checklist is part of my Agile risk management guide. The Guide shares the secrets to reducing risk and delivering successful software development projects with Agile.

If you’re not using Agile project management techniques yet, the Guide will explain why you should. And, if completing the checklist shows that you have areas you can improve, check out the Guide to learn how.

Get your Agile risk management checklist

Check how well you currently manage risk and discover how you can improve.

The model behind the Agile risk management checklist

Software development projects face four main risks. These are risks you’ll fail to deliver:

  • value to your customers
  • at the quality they expect
  • in the time you’ve set aside
  • at a cost you’ve budgeted for.

Agile software development has a number of techniques to reduce these four risks. The most powerful of these approaches are:

  • effective prioritisation
  • increasing transparency
  • reducing batch size
  • limiting work in progress.

Combining these gives you a model for Agile project risk management. The model below shows how different Agile approaches mitigate different risks. Each approach mainly affects one of the areas identified, as well as influencing the other areas.

The Agile software development risk management model. This model breaks down the main project risk areas (quality, time, value, cost) and mitigations (prioritisation, transparency, reducing batch size, limiting work in progress).

How to use the Agile risk management checklist

The checklist identifies key Agile practices that increase the chance that your projects will succeed. It asks you nine questions about each of the four key techniques for cutting risk.

Your first step is to complete the checklist.

Identify your areas of improvement

Next, list all the practices you’re not doing yet — the questions you answered ‘no’ to — under the relevant heading: prioritisation, transparency, work in progress, batch size.

Unsurprisingly, the best way to use the Agile risk management checklist is through Agile risk management techniques. You want to use an Agile approach to improving your risk management. In other words, you need to prioritise the work, make it transparent, limit the size of the batches you work in, and reduce your work in progress.

By treating this work as a project, you get to practice Agile risk management as you go.

Prioritise your next steps

Work out which of the practices will give the greatest gain for the smallest effort. Here are two ways you could do this:

  • fix your biggest deficit first
  • start with the practices that are easiest for you to implement.

The heading with the longest list is the area of your greatest deficit. So it’s likely that any improvements you make in that area will have big benefits.

Tackling the easiest ones first will see you deliver benefits sooner.

Reduce software development risk with Agile prioritisation

Make your work transparent

Write out each practice you want to implement and put them up on a board that the whole team can see. Pull the high priority ones to the top. Then start implementing these practices, tracking your progress on the board.

Use Agile transparency to reduce project risk

Limit batch size

Start with the smallest job — the practice that will be easiest to implement. Avoid the temptation to pull together a number of related practices and implement them in one go. That’s a bigger batch and increases the risk you’ll not complete it.

Manage project risk by limiting work in progress

Reduce work in progress

Make sure you’ve completed each one before you move onto the next. That’s because the more work you have on the go, the less productive you’re likely to be.

How to reduce batch size in Agile software development


Once you’ve completed the checklist, you’ll have a better idea how robust your risk management process are.

If you’ve got lots of work to do, don’t be discouraged. Any improvements you make can have a big impact. And if you turn this work into a project in its own right, you’ll be able to practice the Agile approach as you go.

If you’re already doing well, you’re probably also seeing the results. And you probably already know the benefits of continuing to inspect and improve your practice. Keep up the good work.

The Agile Risk Management Guide

Guidance Case studies & resources
Introduction to project risk management with Agile Agile risk management checklist — check and tune your practice
Effective prioritisation
Reduce software development risk with Agile prioritisation Reducing risk with Agile prioritisation: IntuitionHQ case study
Increasing transparency
How Agile transparency reduces project risk Risk transparency: Smells, Meteors & Upgrades Board case study
Reducing batch size
Manage project risk by limiting work in progress Reducing WIP to limit risk: Blocked stories case study
Limiting work in progress
How to reduce batch size in Agile software development Reducing batch size to manage risk: Story splitting case study

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