My Project Management Expert

Managing Project Risk

So you've now completed the initial stage of the project risk management process by holding a Project Risk Workshop. It is now time to learn how properly managing project risk can actually help the project deliver, and also make your life much easier.

Now managing project risk can be, depending on the kind of Project Manager you are, a very straightforward task, or an onerous overhead. You need to decide what type of project manager you are. Personally I tend to go for the light touch in this area; raising and monitoring the really key risks and not bothering about the minor ones. My reasoning behind this, is that as a heavily delivery focussed Project Manager, I need to devote my time to actually getting the project delivered rather than finding excuses for it not to launch. Further the client invariably doesn't care what the risks are. They simply want the project launched.

Now of course you maybe from the other school of thought where more is undoubtedly less and the more Risks raised the better. There is nothing wrong perse with this approach, it's just that managing project risk becomes almost impossible when faced with a tidal wave of risks.

So once you've determined whether you want to adopt a light and heavy touch to project risks you actually need to manage them. This is usually done by contacting the risk owner and getting an update on them on the following:

  • Whether the risk is still valid
  • Whether the risk now has a greater chance of occurring
  • Whether the impact of the risk occurring is now greater
  • Whether anymore can be done to mitigate the risk
  • Whether there is any contingency plan should the risk occur
  • Wheher the current named owner of the risk is still the correct owner
Now you can probably see why having 300 risks raised in the Risk log is not a good idea. Imagine having to have meetings with numerous Risk Owners about the Risks and then having to update each one with the information above? It would very quickly become a full-time job on it's own!

However with Risks you do need to update them regularly otherwise they quickly become pointless. Worse still your Project Sponsors will soon start making negative comments along the lines of

"well if the risks aren't up to date are they really under control. And if the risks aren't under control then is the project?".

You need to nip this kind of talk in the bud immediately, and regularly updating and pruning the risk log will demonstrate you are very much on top of the project whilst giving the sponsors a feeling of confidence in your ability.

Further it means that should the worse happen and a major risk actually materialise, you will have a contingency plan and be able to mitigate it quickly without it impacting the project. And if the risk couldn't be mitigated, well this would have been demonstrated in both the Risk log and your weekly Project Management Report so no-one can blame you if it should badly affect the project delivery.

The key thing about managing project risk is that it is about preparing for the worse whilst ensuring you cover your back should the worse happen. Remember that and you won't get bogged down by this area.

Managing Project Risk - Tip

Correctly managing project risk can be extremely important to the successful delivery of a project. However unlike other parts of project management, it does not in itself ensure the project gets delivered. All it ensures is that the project doesn't get de-railed by something which was unforseen.

So remember this and don't get railroaded into raising and managing ever more convoluted Project Risks. Concentrate instead in getting the project launched. That after all is the best way to mitigate project risk!

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