A little bit of risk management saves a lot of fan clearing

One of the most important things to do when managing a project to ensure it is successful is to manage risk . The challenge comes with how to manage risk in an easy way that does not bog down the project team with excess paperwork and stop people focussing on the important things. It is also something that people don’t really want to talk about as it hasn’t happened so what is the point in wasting time discussing it. After all they are busy trying to resolve current issues because no one looked at the risks and prevented the issues from occurring!

How I manage risk on my projects

What I like to do to manage risk is to not turn people off by not using the word risk. As an experiment try saying to someone “Can I talk to you about this risk” and then watch them do one of the following:

  1. Tell you they haven’t got time and end the conversation/walk away
  2. Their eyes glaze over; they are looking at you but thinking about something else.
  3. Start checking their iPhone for emails/text messages

Get a little bit of risk management saves a lot of fan clearing printed on a mug and put it on your desk to remind you.

I set aside the first 30 minutes of my day to think risk. I review all of the risks that have already been captured and think is there anything that can be done today to mitigate or reduce the impact of the risk. For example will speaking to someone to make them aware of something reduce the probability of the risk occurring. I have found by deliberately taking 30 minutes each morning stops risks being forgotten about and keeps them in the forefront of my mind.

The other strategy I like to do is when talking to other team members I ask questions to find out how risky something is without ever mentioning the word risk. For example I have the following type of conversation

Me “That task you are working on, how is it progressing?”

Team member “ Fine”

Me “It is due to finish in 5 days?”

(At this point you get a yes or a no. If it is a no then this is an issue so for the purpose of this example we will focus on the answer being a yes.)

I then ask a series of questions

“How are finding the task” (trying to find out if it is easy or hard)

“Do you have any other work on” (i.e. is someone trying to get them to work on something else no matter how small)

“How is your team?” (are they overworked and stretched is someone off sick that could lead to my resource being put on a different task)

As a project manager with the plan I already know the impact and by asking these and other similar questions I am trying to build up a background picture of what the probability is of the task being completed on time.

Do you use any strategies to help manage risk without it over burdening the project?

Remember a bit of risk management saves a lot of fan clearing.

To remind you every day get a mug, mouse mat, coaster or a folio with this quote and stick it on your desk. Get one here.