Exploring trends and developments in project management today.

Managing the Risks

Question 6: Are you managing the project risks?

Project Manager writing a risk management plan

21 Ways to Excel at Project Management

Good Practice: The task of the project manager is to identify the most severe risks and plan to minimise them. Throughout the project you should continue to focus on the major risks facing the project, which will change over time. This helps to keep a focus on the areas that need to be addressed. You should consider using a risk mapping approach:

  • Identify the project objectives.
  • Prioritise the objectives.
  • Identify the key risks to missing those objectives.
  • Take preventive action.
  • Track and update risks regularly once a week or month using a risk log.

There are four risk management techniques your may employ to manage the risks to your project:

Avoidance: Use an alternate approach that does not have the risk. This is not always possible. There are programmes that deliberately involve high risks in the expectation of high gains. However, this is the most effective risk management technique if it can be applied.

Control: Controlling risks involves developing a risk reduction plan and then tracking to the plan. The key aspect is the planning by experienced people. The plan itself may involve parallel development programmes.

Assumption: Simply accepting the risk and continuing. However, there can be a tendency within organisations gradually to let the assumption of a risk take on the aura of a controlled risk.

Risk Transfer: Means causing another party to accept the risk, typically by contract or by hedging. Liability among construction or other contractors is often transferred this way.

"Never expect initial risk management plans to be perfect. Practice, experience, and actual loss results will dictate changes in the plan to allow different decisions to be made in dealing with the risks being faced. In order for companies to succeed in the twenty-first century, they need to excel in all aspects of their business, which includes risk management, so they can fulfill their own and their customer's goals." ¹

Common Mistakes

  • Reluctance to focus on risks.
  • The Steering Committee not wanting to be presented with 'threatening statements about project failure' and only wanting to hear good news.
  • Waiting too long and taking a reactive approach to risks.

Notes: "To run away from risks is to miss the whole point. To ensure project success, you need to take the right risks and you need to be aware that, that is what you are doing."

¹ Paul Bower, Risk Management Options (20th March 2008)