How to identify risks and mitigate them

To identify risks you first need to understand what risk management is. Only then will your ability to see potential risks and document them become easy.

What is risk management?  It is an interesting question. Risk management is the identification and mitigation for a likely event that will cause disruption to a desired outcome.  In project management it is about what might happen and have an impact on the successful delivery of the project.

You start with the understanding of how to identify risks and then work towards documenting them and development of a mitigation strategy.

Risks might have been called out as part of developing a business case. Other team members may also identify risks as part of putting together the project schedule.

A Business Analyst may also identify risks when developing Business Requirements or process mapping current and future state.

Detractors will also assist you to identify risks

There are a group of people within an organisation that are under utilized with regards risk identification, and they are the detractors. The people that are what we would call ‘resistant to the change’ that is, or will be, occurring.

Detractors are the best at telling you what shouldn’t be done and why.  They have very legitimate reasons for expressing things the way that they do.  Detractors or naysayers are usually the people who have been around in the business the longest. They’ve seen the things that have worked, and what hasn’t and understand how the people and systems operate in the business.

They are also the best ones to test your mitigation strategy with.  They will be sure to highlight why it won’t work, or perhaps, even why it will.

Seek out these people.  They are likely to be the ones making the loudest noise about the project, even before it’s started.  Ask others in the business area that isn’t happy about this project occurring or eventuating.

You will know a detractor by the language they use. It’s most often negative.

Treat detractors as your prized information holders.

Treat these people as your prized information holders.  Be serious about engaging them.  If you do, and you really listen to what they will have to say, by doing this you will gain their trust and they will then likely become your biggest advocates and supporters.

I have found that speaking to them one by one works, but if you want to get adventurous, then get a group of them in a room together.  What a way to hold a Pre Mortem.

This podcast episode looks at how to identify risks and manage them.