How To Make Risk Management Easy

Make risk management easy. Not possible you may say.

Risk management is often seen as a task that is only the responsibility of the PM.  Why not get everyone involved?  Why not have your team feel that it is an important part of their role working on the project?

Let’s talk about why this is effective and supports you in managing your project.

I’ve seen many PMs who hate risk management and avoid it like the plague. Firstly, this concerns me as you aren’t really managing a project if you aren’t managing the risks that arise. Aside from that, it says to me that PM s don’t fully understand how to manage risk. They do it in an easy way, which ultimately means they aren’t managing them at all. So here are my tips for making risk management easy, on your project.

Involve everyone in risk management

Get everyone on the project team involved in risk management. Yes, you heard me correctly, everyone.

You need all team members thinking about risk the whole time your project is in delivery mode. How do you do this? Talk about it with them. Make them aware that it’s important. And make it so that they don’t think it’s a bad thing to tell you about risk or risks that they see might exist.

People who identified risk in writing your business case

What about the people who were involved in helping develop your business case?  You may have spoken to them about risks as part of your business case development. These people, if they’re on your project team, will be handy to have on board. Remind them to consider the risks they helped you highlight for the business case. Ask them to let you know of any that they consider as the project progresses too.

These are really valuable people to have around. They help make risk management easy due to identifying the risks for you.

Other project team members

For those team members who weren’t part of this initial pre-project phase, talk to them about wanting an open and honest team who’s willing to highlight risks as they surface. You want the team to trust that you will take everything they say seriously, and you must.

Any risk that is raised is something to be considered as worthy of taking note of.

Explain how risks impact on delivery

Explain to your team members how risks that arise impact on delivery and so the sooner you know about them, the sooner a mitigation strategy can be put in place by the team. Notice here that I talked about the team helping to put the mitigation strategy in place.

This is another key aspect of getting everyone on board to manage the risks on the project. I’m not talking about passing the buck here.

Don’t think YOU need to manage all the risks

Some experienced Project Managers may be averse to raising risks. Their belief may be they will be landed with the action item of managing that risk.

Sometimes other project team members do have action items listed against them. That’s okay if you’re all playing a part in ensuring that the risks are mitigated; that the risks are seen as a valuable part of successful project delivery.

Highlighting the risks at least is a great start. Naturally having a mitigation strategy in place will ensure successful delivery if that risk materialises.

Talk about the joint effort needed to successfully deliver the project

Talk to the team about how your project is a joint effort that without each and everyone contributing, won’t be delivered. And good risk management is a part of that. You want them all to feel empowered to help make the delivery happen in the best possible way.

You do need to be feeling that this is the case though. It’s not good saying these words and not meaning them. Remember the trust aspect here. The team need to trust you and your word.

Explain the value to the project sponsor, and business owner of everyone being fully aware and open to raising risks

It will help in the longer term to deliver the best outcome for the business, which is ultimately the goal of the project. Highlight that raising risks is a positive thing. I can’t say this loudly enough. Risks are not a negative thing and yet they are often seen that way.

Risks are just possible hurdles

I like to think of them as possible hurdles that we, the project team, need to get over in order to reach the finish line. They are there and we can manage them, but only if we know about them. We, the project team, will gain the trust of our project sponsor and business owner and PCB members if we’re seen to raise risks as they become apparent.

Keep a risk log and regularly check it

I like to do it prior to my reporting cycles so that I can update my PCB on any risks that have arisen or changed status since the last report. Don’t make a list of risks and then file it in the bottom drawer at the start of your project and never visit it. This is of no value at all. And it spells trouble with a capital T.

Only report on critical or high risks and manage the rest

You never know when one of those risks is going to materialize and damage the business. Not to mention your project. Only report on critical or high risks. Manage the rest of the risks within the team. And yes, I said managed by you AND the team. The team need to feel that they have ownership over the mitigation strategies too. This is not about highlighting risks and acting on them yourself.

Share ownership of the risks with your team

Don’t go marching around reporting or checking up on risk mitigation. Be inclusive with your team and talk to them about the risks that are listed as possibly impacting their area of the project. Help them to take the ownership necessary so they feel like it’s a natural part of what they’re doing.  Managing risk doesn’t need to be seen as an additional task.

You don’t need to have formal risk meetings

I find these are an absolute waste of time. Raise the risks and risk mitigation as part of your normal stream or team lead meetings or project team meetings for that matter. This makes risk management easy. It needs to be a standard part of your project checking, not something that you as the PM are the only one responsible for.

By doing this, you will ensure that you do not have any risks that come out of the blue and jeopardize the delivery of your project. You will have a stronger team relationship; a stronger relationship with not only your project sponsor but also with your PCB.

This is a key aspect of successful project delivery. Getting everyone involved makes risk management easy. You’ll be glad you did.