As project managers, part of our job is to predict potential issues and put mitigation plans in place to minimize the probability and impact of these issues from wreaking havoc on our projects. A project manager with any level of experience has very likely been exposed to creating (at minimum) a risk register and possibly even a risk management plan. These are some great first steps in risk management but often times the novice project manager will often disregard these documents and proceed directly into fire-fighting mode for the duration of the project. This is a much more reactive position and generally not a good way to demonstrate to your project sponsor that things are under control and proceeding as planned. In this article I’m going to discuss the two key elements to successful risk management – vigilance and persistence.
A good project manager will always be on the lookout for threats to their project. Experience is the ultimate teacher in helping seasoned PM’s identify small ripples in the water before they become tidal waves and allow them to proactively respond and implement mitigation strategies to minimize or eliminate the risk altogether. By monitoring all aspects of your project from stakeholder engagement and relations to external environmental factors, project managers need to be constantly on the lookout for anything that could threaten their projects. By identifying risks early on, even before they become real threats to your project, you are decreasing the likelihood of these risks having any significant impact on your project.
The second element to successful risk management is persistence. Constant evaluation and assessment of the project landscape is necessary to keeping a real-time view of risks to our project. As mentioned above, often times risk registers will be developed and stored away for the life of the project. Over time we will lose our nose for sensing out risks which will allow them to grow un-noticed until it grows into an issue that will have a detrimental impact on your project. It’s not uncommon for good project managers to review and update their risk registers daily or (at the most) weekly. Seeking input from your stakeholders is vital to maintaining a proper and accurate risk register. As a project manager you may not be attuned to more of the intricate technical details on your project that perhaps one of your senior developers may be. It’s vital that as your project team sees potential risks to the direction of your project that they are brought up and mitigations strategies discussed and implemented.
Not every identified risk requires a comprehensive action plan to mitigate it but it is a vital component to project success that any threats to your project be properly reviewed and assessed to ensure that your project is not adversely affected by preventable issues.