A New Model for Risk/Return on Projects

In finance there is a concept called the Sharpe Ratio, which project management could learn from.

Basically a Sharpe Ratio captures return achieved in exchange for risk.

So it’s not just about how risky (delayed) a project but what what the true return is relative to that. This is not Return on Investment but Return on Risk.

Project management can’t achieve this level of accuracy because both return and risk are much harder to measure for a one off project than for an investment. For example, shares in Ford trade on the markets on a daily basis making it very easy to do complex statistical analysis. Project management is getting better in terms of Monte Carlo analysis to model schedule risk. But at a fundamental level the data project managers have to work with just is not as rich as in finance, because each project is unique.

The point is this, as I look at project failures, the most horrendously delayed projects are also often the ones that win major awards.

For example, would you rather have this on time and budget?

photo rytc (via Flickr)

Or these with delays and cost overruns, (but lots of awards)?

photo: Ian Kroll (via Flickr)

source: Anita363 (via Flickr)

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