Thursday, 8 November 2012

Five Tips for Successful Project Risk Management

Effective risk management is increasingly seen as an essential element of delivering successful projects. With a project risk management process and system, risks to the project can be identified early and minimized, and teams will be able to seize opportunities as they occur.
Use the five tips below to help deliver projects on time, on budget, and with the highest quality results.

Tip 1: End the ‘Walk on by’ Culture and Involve the Entire Project Team
Risk management must be a part of your project embraced by all team members. Rather than teams looking blindly to the project manager and assuming he is managing all risk for the project, the entire team must be involved. In my experience, the organizations that are the most successful at project risk management have both a top down and a bottom up approach – risk management is mandated and supported from senior management, and each team member is empowered to speak up and take action. Employees who identify risks early are recognized and rewarded.

Tip 2: Identify Risks Early – Even in the Bid-Phase

Before the project even begins, your team should be already working to identify risks. Begin by gathering all project members (and other employees and partners who have worked on related projects) into workshops and brainstorm a list of potential risks and opportunities. Consult the project plan, old project plans, online resources, and outside experts to make sure your list of probable risks is as complete as possible. 

Tip 3: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

To ensure risks are continuously identified and communicated appropriately, add project risks and opportunity discussions as a standing topic to the team’s regular meetings. The benefits of open communication trickle up, as the project manager will have better information to report to the project sponsor or principal, ensuring that the customer doesn’t have unexpected surprises.  Open communication also allows for the identification of interrelated risks – risks that appear small on their own, but may act as a catalyst for larger problems.

Tip 4: Analyze and Prioritize – then Reprioritize

As risks are identified during a project, teams must decide how to prioritize them. Overall, risks should be measured by the impact they could have on the project goals, and start with those that could cause the biggest losses and gains, and those with the highest probability of occurrence. Once you have a set of risk criteria, use it to assess all risks as they are identified during a project.
Risks may be rescored and reprioritized as they pass up the project hierarchy and organization, based on the different priorities at each level. What may be seen as a less important risk by a single project might be viewed as more important at the program or organizational level. Here a wider picture becomes clear across multiple projects and strategic priorities, rather than operational needs, apply. For example, a lack of skills seen in multiple projects may be best addressed by a company-wide training program.

Tip 5: Plan and Implement Risk Responses

Once your risks are identified, analyzed, and prioritized, the risk response is the activity that adds value to your project. The right response can prevent a risk from occurring or minimize its negative effects. Responses include risk avoidance, risk minimization, risk transfer and risk acceptance.
By implementing risk management into a project early, and ensuring risks are openly communicated throughout the project, teams can be more successful in delivering on time and on budget, by avoiding unexpected risks and sticking to the project timeline. And last of all, share what worked – and what didn’t, throughout the business so the future bids and projects have a library of best practices to call on.
How has risk management helped your organization complete projects successfully? Are you sharing best practices across the business?

by Chris Bell (Chief Marketing Officer at ERM software provider Active Risk.)

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