Some projects are destined to fail from the start, while others seem to sail successfully to the finish. Establishing a simple risk management process that is easily administered by the project manager is critical to project success. The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a range of valuable information on risk management which is available at no-cost to PMI members.
The three main categories of project risk are scope, schedule, and resource risk. However, drilling down into each one of these categories uncovers scores and scores of project risks, each presenting danger to your project.
Within fractions of a second, Internet searches provide nearly half a million results for project risk. The sources of these results lead to universities, professional organizations, personal blogs and more. This suggests that project risk is at the heart of many, many projects.
I’m not surprised. Every project is subject to risk, the success of the project sometimes depends on how risk is managed. In my experience, the earlier that you address project risks, the easier it is to manage. Of course you will encounter obstacles in setting up risk review meetings or strategy sessions with your project stakeholders, but the best thing to do is to start with a brief regular meeting to get your decision makers in a room for a discussion. In order to manage risk, I follow the following four tactics listed below:
The Risk & Strategy Review Session
1. Determine Primary Decision Makers
Once you have identified your project stakeholders, your first action is to determine the primary decision makers. Your customer should be on board with this, but if they are not, make a point to explain why this is required. Business and IT folks work in groups to determine the right decision, but with regards to a project, decisions should not be made by a large group or committee. There should be very few decision makers on your project who should be included in your Risk & Strategy Review Sessions.
2. Hold regular meetings even if you have nothing to talk about
This meeting should be 30 minutes or less and the focus should be to discuss potential risks. It is critical to reserve this time on calendars so that when you need your decision makers for critical project risks, you have their commitment. Every opportunity for communication is important.
3. Use a Risk Watch List or Log
Document all risks on your project, regardless of the priority. If risk management is new to your project team, start documenting common risks yourself to review during your first Risk & Strategy Review Session. Share this list with your decision makers during each meeting, using a projector if necessary to focus attention on determining impact, priority, response, etc.
4. Communicate decisions and assignments in meeting minutes
Five minutes before ending the meeting, review any decisions that were made or action items assigned. Follow up on this by emailing attendees to remind folks of their assignments and to document decisions made during the meeting.
Facilitating regular meetings is one way to keep your project decision makers engaged in the project, forcing them to take ownership and help the project run smoothly. There are many effective approaches to tackling project risk. Although these tactics have been working for me I am constantly looking for creative ideas or new strategies. Do you have a favorite?