What is a Workaround?

July 25, 2020
Fahad Usmani
Workaround

I have mentioned workarounds in many posts and comments. For many PMP aspirants, it was a new concept. A few of them requested that I write a detailed post on it. 

They had difficulty with understating a few issues, such as:

  • What is a workaround?
  • What plan do we use for workarounds?
  • Which reserve will you use for workarounds?
  • In which process do you manage workarounds?

 So, I am writing this blog post on workarounds to answer these questions.

What is a workaround?

Workarounds are responses to unidentified risks or passively accepted risks.

Put simply, if any unidentified risk occurs, you will manage it through a workaround. If you have any identified risks you did not plan for, you will use a workaround to manage them. 

The project environment is dynamic and even an experienced project manager cannot identify all risks. Workarounds are common.

Which plan will you use to manage a workaround?

You may wonder now which plan you will use for workarounds; more specifically, do you use a contingency plan or fallback plan? 

Contingency plans and fallback plans are developed to manage identified risks, but workarounds are a response to unidentified risks. 

Once an unidentified risk occurs, you will discuss it with your team members and come up with a plan to contain the situation and minimize the impact.

Which reserve will you use for workarounds?

You have two risk reserves in project management: contingency reserve and management reserve

The contingency reserve is for identified risks and management reserves are for unidentified risks. Since workarounds are a response to unidentified risks, you will use the management reserve.

In which process do you carry out the workarounds?

As discussed, workarounds are responses to unidentified risks and involve controlling risks. So, you carry out workarounds in the control risks process. Implementing workarounds can cause a change request.

Summary

Workarounds are responses to unidentified risks. Once any unidentified risk occurs, you will develop a plan and try to manage it. There is no pre-existing plan for workarounds and you use the management reserve to manage them. 

How you manage workarounds in your project?  Please share your experiences in the comments section.

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Speak Your Mind

  • Can anybody please explain calculation of the following question,

    You are trying to determine whether or not to conduct 100% final system tests of 500 ground-based radar units at the factory. The historical radar field failure rate is 4%; the cost to test each unit in the factory is $10,000; the cost to reassemble each passed unit after the factory test is $2,000; the cost to repair and reassemble each failed unit after factory test is $23,000; and the cost to repair and reinstall each failed unit in the field is $350,000. Using decision tree analysis, what is the expected value if you decide to conduct these tests?
    a. $5.5 million
    b. $5.96 million
    c. $6.42 million
    d. $7 million

  • Can please anybody guide which answer is correct for the following question? The answer says Expeditor but I doubt with the content of the taks, it looks like coordinator is more appropriate than expeditor.

    Your role in the project includes helping to resolve problems; making recommendations regarding priorities;
    accelerating activities to meet the target schedule; promoting communications among project team members; and helping management monitor the project’s progress on a regular basis. Most of the people working on your project are scientists or technical experts. You are working in which of the following types of organizational structures?
    a. Task force
    b. Balanced matrix
    c. Project expeditor
    d. Project coordinator

  • 1. Where do workarounds will be recorded for immediate or later action?

    2. In PDCA cycle “DO” , “CHECK” and “ACT” belongs to what process groups?

    • During the execution of a project , a risk is identified by a team member which is not in the risk register. What steps will you take to manage the risk?

      • Hello Emma,

        The risk identification is a continuous process. You will keep identifying until the project ends. Once you find a risk, you will qualify and take appropriate action as defined in the risk management plan. You can create a response or keep in the watchlist.

    • If any un identified risk occurs, the first step is to manage it. If it involes only cost, you can use the management reserver. However, if it affects schedule as well, you can raise the change request.

  • Hi,
    This is a question from RITA book . I have a confusion in this . Can you please clear ??

    A System development project is near project closing when a previously unidentified risk is discovered . This could potentially affect the project’s overall ability to deliver . What should be done NEXT ??

    A. Alert the Project Sponsor of potential impacts to cost, scope or schedule
    B. Qualify the Risk
    C. Mitigate the Risk by developing a Risk Response Plan
    D. Develop a Workaround

    I thought the Answer is D since this is an unidentified Risk , but the answer is B .
    Is there a need to Qualify the unidentified Risks before developing a Workaround ??

    • @ Pavan :Qualify the risk means, may be we should analyse its potential impact to project objectives first before developing and implementing a workaround?

    • This risk is not occurred yet, so you still follow the same process. Remember, identification is an iterative process? Its just the terminology. Any risk identified at any stage will be unidentified. I don’t think you will develop a work around for this.

  • Hello Fahad,

    Why does response to question 162 of your book – PMI-RMP Question Bank, choose option A instead og the option C which would seem most correct? Ofcourse all identified risk during the plan risk response and during control risk will be recorded, but workarounds are created when the scenario is question 162 occurs

  • Logically based on PMBOK guide, workarounds should use management reserve if unidentified or passively accepted risks occur because there is no any money or time for them allocated in the contingency reserve. But in my opinion, use of management reserve for workarounds might be different story when contract clauses for unforeseen risks direct the change order or variation order from the client, which means the duration and costs affected by those workarounds can be compensated and incorporated into the total contract amounts and duration of the execution of the work. So in my opinion, practically the project manager should use contingency reserve temporarily to implement workarounds upon consultation with contact, client and management or insurance company in case that contract does not specifically covers but insurance does unforeseen events like force majeure, and should make revision to schedule and budget upon compensation from the client or insurance with returning temporarily used resources to contingency reserve. Management reserve, upon approval of management, might be used for workarounds in the project internally performed by an organization or externally performed for the other organization in the circumstance of neither contract nor insurance covered for unforeseen unidentified risks. Frankly speaking, application of management reserve in risk management is not clear to me when I read PMBOK guide.

  • Thanks for your explanation , in fact the procedures are now clear , only i have some doubts like what we will do after fallback plan is fail also , shall we accepted the residual risks passively , and what is the result of this passive acceptance ? And what we will do to deal with it ?

  • Thanks Fahad for this great article.

    @Muhammad Uzair: I think wat you said is right and it is the some think as Fahad second point of work aroud implementation case: “… for which prior response … was not effective” in your comment is is equal for me to “It also covers the response to risks that you have identified but did not make a plan to manage or accepted passively” from Fahad article.

    • I guess we have three types of risks over here:
      1. Risk that was not identified at all
      2. Risk that was identified, but accepted passively (means you do nothing when it happens)
      3. Risk that was identified, a response (or responses) were developed, response was implemented when the risk occured, but the response was not ‘effective’ (response didn’t work).
      Am I right Fahad and Ibrahim?

  • Excellent explanation fahad
    your way of explaining things is just out of this world. Here I completely agree with the way workaround is explained.
    BY the way I Just passed my pmp exam on March 24th. And I had been a regular visitor on ur site and will keep coming.
    You are doing a wonderful job.

  • The PMBOK Guide glossary describes it as: “A resposne to a threat that has occured, for which prior response had not been planned or was not effective”.

    “… for which prior resonse had not bee planned” does refer to unidentified risks. But if we look into the second part i.e. “… for which prior response … was not effective” then it doesn’t refer to unidentified risk. I think this point needs to be adjusted in the post.

    Jazakallah for the informative post!

    • Hello Uzair,

      As per my understanding, usually fallback plan is created for any identified risk (if the contingency plan fails). However, if the fallback plan also fails, or not effective, or something come up which you did not think earlier, you will go for the workaround.

      • contingency and fallback plans concern only identified and accepted risks, isn’t it? Normally, Other risk types must have their responses and related budget to execute it.

      • Mr Fahad, Is this true about work around:
        work around is an unplanned response to :
        A risk in which no contingency plan exists (Identified risk with Passive acceptance strategy).
        A risk whose contingency plan and fall back plan had failed (Identified risk with active acceptance strategy).
        Risks whose strategies taken and performed was not so effective (Identified risk with a planned strategy to be performed such as: Insurance, bonds, Safety wears to buy… ).
        An unidentified risk that comes for the first time: (Unidentified risks)

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