A Practical Approach to Risk Management


Following up on my last blog post regarding project management predictions for 2016, I thought I would expand on each of the ‘predictions’ in my first few posts of the year.

Projects Will Still Have Issues in 2016

As I noted in my post, projects will always have issues. And though we know this to be true, that shouldn’t prevent project managers and team members alike from being diligent in anticipating risks (that can become issues) and plan for them – as we have a responsibility to do so.

Now, while I’m confident I can regurgitate content from the PMBOK in terms of processes, inputs/outputs and tools & techniques related to risk management as good as anyone, for the purpose of this post I thought I would outline a few practical strategies from my own experience and perspective.

Do a Pre-Project Risk Assessment

Risk management seems to always be a topic of conversation within the realm of project management, but I would argue that it should pre-date the project kick-off. Before a project team is engaged and deemed to be accountable for the delivery of the project, the organization should have already performed an assessment of the project. Some of the points, questions and analysis to be considered might include the likes of:

  • How does this project align with our strategy?
  • Who is the customer? What industry are they in? Do we have any experience in this industry? Is doing work in this industry aligned with our strategy?
  • Have we done business with this customer before? If yes, what was our experience with them? If no, do we have any partners or contacts that have done business with them before and what was their experience with them?
  • Do we have team members with the skills required to do the work? Are these team members available at the allocation required to complete the work in the expected timeline and budget?

Build in Some Contingency

Based on the pre-project risk assessment, the organization should have a good sense of the level of risk a project has before it starts. If the project is deemed to be aligned to strategy and within the organization’s acceptable risk tolerance, the project team can use the outcomes of the pre-project risk assessment for inputs for the project risk planning.

For example, if we’re working in a new industry or with a new customer, or with a customer where there had been issues on previous projects, contingencies can be incorporated into the project budget and/or schedule (and other areas alike) to mitigate risks. This could mean having additional budget set aside for risks and/or additional time factored into the schedule. On the other hand, if we’re working with a familiar customer where we have a strong relationship and an established process proven to be effective with this customer, there should be less of a need for these types of contingencies.

Apply your Lessons Learned

Most project management methodologies advocate for a post project lessons learned (or post-mortem) type of session to identify project ‘failures’ and ‘successes’. From a risk management perspective, ensuring that lessons learned on past projects result in actionable improvements that are incorporated into future projects, is key.

Someone famous once defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing, but expecting a different result’, so unless you’re planning for the ‘insanity defense’ when your project goes off the rails, understanding and applying your lessons learned will be a key strategy in mitigating risks on your project.



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Filed under Management, Project Management, Strategy, Uncategorized

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