Did Oswald Have a Chance to Kill The President?: A Project Risk Analysis Perspective


Lev Virine, Ph.D., P.Eng

Michael Trumper

Eugenia Virine, PMP

Intaver Institute Inc.

Alberta, Canada

Project management offers a powerful set of methods and tools to solve many complex problems. Quantitative project risk analysis using Monte Carlo simulation is one of them. It allows project managers to create and manage realistic or so-called “risk-adjusted” project schedules that take into account multiple risks and uncertainties. Despite the fact that this methodology has proven to be very powerful and useful, it is not used as widely as it could be. Moreover, often it is used inappropriately and yields incorrect results.

To demonstrate how to use quantitative project risk analysis, we decided to use a well-known historical event, the assignation of U.S. President John Kennedy. On November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper in Dallas, Texas. A ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission concluded that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone; however many believe that Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy. Using project risk analysis, we decided to assess whether Oswald would have had a realistic chance to kill the President. But before we begin, a small disclaimer: we do not claim to possess exact information especially with regards to the probabilities and impacts of certain risks; and therefore, cannot give a definite answer from the historical point of view. This example is only intended to illustrate project risk analysis methodology.

What we are trying to achieve is called forensic risk analysis. In most cases, project risk analysis is performed prior to the start of a project or during execution to generate probabilities of meeting project objectives. But in this case, we are trying to determine the chance that Oswald could complete his project – the assassination of President Kennedy – as it actually occurred.


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About the Authors

pmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR1 VIRINE LEVLev Virine, PhDflag-canada

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

Lev D. Virine, Ph.D. has more than 25 years of experience as a structural engineer, software developer, and project manager. He has been involved in major projects performed by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to establish effective decision analysis and risk management processes as well as to conduct risk analyses of complex projects. Lev’s current research interests include the application of decision analysis and risk management to project management. He writes and speaks around the world on the decision analysis process, the psychology of judgment and decision-making and risk management. Lev can be contacted at [email protected]

pmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR2 TRUMPERMichael Trumper flag-canada

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

Michael Trumper has over 20 years’ experience in communications, software design, and project risk and management. Michael is a partner at Intaver Institute Inc., a vendor of project risk management and analysis software. Michael has authored papers on quantitative methods in project estimation and risk analysis. He is a co-author of two books on project risk management and decision analysis. He has developed and delivered project risk analysis and management solutions to clients that include NASA, DOE, and Lockheed Martin.

pmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR3 VIRINE EUGENIAEugenia Virine, PMPflag-canada

Alberta, Canada

Eugenia Virine, PMP, is a senior manager for revenue development at Greyhound Canada. Over the past 12 years Eugenia has managed many complex projects in the areas of transportation and information technology. Her current research interests include project risk and decision analysis, project performance management, and project metrics. Eugenia holds B. Comm. degree from University of Calgary.