Most people are very familiar with the movie The Great Escape but may not be familiar with it as a project executed in the spring of 1944. The starting point for the project was in March of 1943 with the move to a new camp, the North Compound, created to relieve some of the overcrowding in the existing camp. From the outset, the move to and taking up of brand-new quarters would cause confusion and provide new opportunities, and all sort of possibilities for escape.
Roger Bushell and the escape committee were faced with the conundrum of determining the best possible approach to an escape. They needed to balance variables like the availability of resources and the overall risk to the escapers and POWs in the camp.
In the East Compound, the POWs had lost or abandoned at least fifty tunnels in a thirty-month time frame much to the dismay of the camp’s escape committee. This was a dismal and unsatisfactory track record, and POW morale was sagging very low. The escape committee (like a PMO) could prioritize the escapes that had the best chance of success. They could also determine the best Return on Investment (ROI) for the escape by analyzing the resources and risks for the escape.
Overall there were different types of escapes possible with varying approaches for example:
- An unplanned and opportunistic escape, where 1 or 2 escapers take immediate advantage of a presented situation. For example, climb and hide in the back of a truck inside the camp. These opportunities were extremely rare and risky, and just to the immediate escapers and not the rest of the camp. In addition, the POWs had no time to prepare and would end up outside of the camp with no resources and equipment to continue the escape.
- A planned escape, used once only, a throwaway escape where the escape route would be exposed and could not be reused, for 1 to 3 escapers to get out. For example, finding a blind spot along the perimeter fence and cutting through the wire. This would be discovered within 24 hours and was a little less opportunistic and risky. The POWs would end up on the outside of the camp with resources and equipment to continue the escape.
- Planned escape, reused several times, for 1 to 10 escapers, several escapes spread over several months, through a tunnel. There were problems in disguising missing POWs in the camp for more than a few days. Camp authorities would search with little let-up. Continuation of the project would be very difficult. The POWs would have resources and equipment outside of the camp to continue the escape.
- Planned mass escape, used once only, a throwaway escape where the escape route would be exposed and could not be reused, for up to 250 escapers to get out. With many escapers, the contribution to the escape would be significant, the pooling of a lot of materials and resources. The POWs would have good resources and equipment outside of the camp to continue the escape
Clearly, Project Risk Management was a major concern in The Great Escape project, so carry out the following exercises to identify and analyze the project risks involved. Preferably, work as a team to develop responses as though you were working in a Project Management Office (PMO) for this project.
- Identify how risk management should be practiced through each stage of the project.
- Play out scenarios that recognize overall areas of risk, and then identify specific risks.
- First, because it is simpler and easier to do so, complete a qualitative risk analysis for each specific risk you have identified.
- Collect metrics that quantify each of these risks in terms of calculating the cost of the impact of each risk, and sort in priority order.
- Plan risk responses that are realistic, even though some have to be just simply accepted.
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