Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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Take action with risks (don't just write them down)

According to the Project Management Institute, almost a third of projects fail as a result of poor risk management. Unfortunately – much like the rest of project planning these days – it’s seen as a form-filling exercise rather than a ‘let’s take action to stop this happening’ exercise.

To stop a risk from becoming an issue (they only happen this way around), then you should follow these five steps:

  1. Get a group of people together who can accurately assess what risks (or opportunities) your project could be exposed to. Don’t call it a risk workshop because no-one ever wants to go to one of those. Be creative with the name and have biscuits. Always have biscuits.
  2. Get the group to write them down and then take them through a process of identifying the likelihood of the risk occurring and the impact should that happen. Get the group to come up with the actions necessary to ensure that they don’t become issues.
  3. Decide which you need to address (typically the medium and high risks) and add the actions to stop them becoming issues, to your schedule. There is a cost and time implication to managing risk and it should be assessed at this stage before you take the action. Some risk may not be managed cost-effectively and may have to be tolerated instead.
  4. Make sure the actions are completed – we call this mitigation.
  5. Continually reassess the risks (at least weekly) to ensure that you’ve decreased the likelihood of them becoming issues and ensure there are no new ones that could surprise you. If there are, go back to step one and repeat the process.

Risk management takes time and costs money but it's preferable to the alternative of managing the issues. In order to be proactive rather than reactive take action, don’t just write them down.

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