Murphy’s Law tells us that if it can go wrong, it will. Unfortunately, in managing projects, nothing is this easy. With risks, we need to peer into the future to understand when things can go wrong and, if they do, what their impact will be.
Risks, by their very nature, are a challenge to both plan for and manage because:
- Risks are conditional and based in the future (if it’s happening now – it’s an issue)
- As conditional entities, risk planning is based on perception as well as fact.
The standard risk management models are good for scaling risks according to probability and impact (i.e., consequence). The challenge is for Project Managers to use this information properly.
Don’t get bogged with risks which are beyond your project team’s span of control. Project Managers should take ownership for getting these risks to the project’s steering committee and/or project office (and off the project team’s plate). From an enterprise perspective, the Project Office (or Steering Committee) can assign these risks to the proper players. The strategy is to get risk ownership to the folks who can best manage them – even if they’re not on the project team. By doing this, the Project Manager relieves the team of spending time (and energy) both worrying about and working on items they can’t control.
No matter who owns the risks, the project manager should take ownership for tracking and Reporting the risks (along with their owners’ assessments) on KPI dashboards, etc. The goal is to keep everything easily visible for ready action.
Good risk management strengthens project team morale because it gives team members a chance to think “outside the box” and only manage the risks they can control. It also presents a unique opportunity for the extended team to work together across the enterprise in different subject matter domains. In our collective experience, this has not only been effective in managing risks, but in getting the “right” folks to both (1) enthusiastically participate in and (2) support the process.