Risk & Your Project

Mike Girdler

Good risk management = good project results Close your eyes for a second and think about a project you were associated with that was not …

Good risk management = good project results

Close your eyes for a second and think about a project you were associated with that was not successful. When you think back on that project would better Risk management have helped? I believe your answer is yes. Risk plays such a huge role in project success. Let’s take a look at some hypothetical scenarios and see how risk and good risk management can impact projects and help ensure their success. Risk concept.

Identifying risk

First, let’s say that during project planning, a project manager plans to have a certain resource available to the project six months from now. This resource and their skill set is a key contributor to the project. Now fast forward six months and we are told by the resource that they have been assigned to another project and won’t be available to your project. What do we do? Do we hire a consultant, do we delay the project phase until the resource is available? Do we train someone? Do we try to get the resource re-assigned to our project? Do we use the resources we do have available?

At the end of the day, the fact that the project manager and team didn’t properly identify, analyze, and develop a risk response plan that noted the importance of the resource, the consequences of unavailability, and have a defined risk management response for this, very likely will have an effect on timelines, budget, and project quality.

Recognizing risk

The next example comes courtesy of renowned project management expert, Rita Mulcahy via her PMP exam Prep book. I’ll exercise some poetic license here, but this example revolves around an important aspect of a project that had been done in Florida during a hurricane. During a conversation between Rita and the project manager, the project manager mentioned how proud he was that the aspect of the project came off successfully, in spite of hurricane warnings and the ensuing hurricane. Rita responded by saying she would have fired him, but why?

As a project manager, our responsibility is to recognize (with the team) the risks associated with executing this aspect of the project during hurricane season. The project manager’s role is not to react and respond to the risk, if it were to occur, but to identify it, and ensure plans are in place to attend to it, and its potential repercussions.

Planning for risk

Here’s a final hypothetical scenario, during project planning, a project manager, anxious to get the project going, decides not to involve all of the team and stakeholders in a risk identification meeting. She believes that she knows the project better than anyone else and can identify all potential risks by herself.

Team members and stakeholders provide valuable insight and expert knowledge to the project and are key contributors to assist in risk identification and response planning. To leave them out is a sure fire recipe for risk consequences.

These hypothetical situations highlight the impact risk plays in project success, and reinforces the importance of undertaking careful risk identification, assessment, and planning to ensure project success.

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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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