Typically the management of risk becomes a reactionary exercise during the life cycle of a project.

Despite best endeavours invariably there will be some unforeseen or poorly identified risks, which will manifest themselves into issues, sometimes serious, and thus require immediate action.

Reactive responses, often formed at a time of crisis, will absorb critical time and resources at the expense of other pre-planned activities adding pressure to timelines, costs and quality.

Many project managers will argue managing risk in a reactive way is part of the territory and cannot be avoided. Pointing out risk treatments will vary depending on finite resources and strict timelines.

However, it is our experience that many project managers can reduce the impact of in-flight risk management and operate in a less reactive way by following two simple rules.

Ensuring there is sufficient focus and due care taken during the initial risk identification stage

Awareness of risk and identifying potential project risks early are critical to project success, but how can you ensure project stakeholders keep these in focus?

A risk workshop at the start of a project is an effective method of working through the scope and severity of project risk. Below are some key elements to consider when running a successful risk workshop:

  • Ensure there is broad representation at the risk workshop – don’t just focus on the technical aspects. The business and change aspects need equal consideration.
  • Engage an external facilitator if necessary to avoid any “us-and-them” feelings in the room between IT and business to drive collaboration.
  • Use the risk workshop time wisely. Don’t assume knowledge of risk management and be prepared to explain the process and why people are there.
  • Avoid commencing the workshop with a blank page. Ensure that stakeholders come with any already known or likely risks documented for discussion
  • Avoid the absurd and keep the group on message by focussing on risks that have a high likelihood and impact. Don’t just put up motherhood risk statements.
  • Take steps to understand the risk appetite/tolerance of the organisation and apply that when looking at which risks need to be actively managed

A well run risk workshop can help all stakeholders become aware of what risks are likely to occur and how they can be effectively managed if they arise. In particular, project managers become more aware of which risks can impact project delivery and can pro-actively plan suitable treatments.

Project stakeholders also benefit from a greater sense of confidence that project managers can stay on top of risks in critical projects by having been actively engaged during the process.

Understand the Project Delivery DNA of the organisation

Every enterprise delivers projects differently. Whilst the fundamentals of project management remain the same, understanding the culture, systems issues, hot spots, what worked in the past and what didn’t helps ensure project managers do not make the same mistakes as predecessors.

Quay calls this approach the Risk Ecosphere – a continuous process by which lessons learned are harvested and translated into risks and fit-for-purpose risk treatments by capturing the tacit or Delivery DNA knowledge of the organisation.

This historical information of what has come before will better enable project managers to pre-empt which risks may become issues and facilitate a more pro-active approach to risk management once the projects are in flight.

Activities include:

  • Reviewing and harvesting any lessons learned from logs held by the PMO
  • Reviewing any PIR’s or project closure reports from similar or recent projects
  • If the above information is not present, then review actual project risk and issue logs or steering committee packs of current projects
  • Discuss with the PMO Manager or experienced PM’s within the organisation what risks typically manifest themselves
  • Ensure that when your project is complete you close it out in an appropriate way to capture and disseminate lessons learned for the use by future project managers thus continuing the risk ecosphere cycle

None of the above will take away the need for project managers to be able to react as required when managing risks during the life of the project.

However following some of the above steps at the beginning and end of a project will reduce the number of surprises and better equip you as a project manager to manage risks in a more pro-active rather than re-active way.

Contact the Quay team on 02 9098 6300 for more information about risk management workshops, or drop us an email with your enquiry

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...