Risk exposure is something that can take a great project down quickly. High performing teams don’t stand a chance to risks that sneak up on a project and blow them up from the inside. Continually overseeing risks on your project is something that needs to be proactively done in order to limit the amount of risk exposure to your project. Here are some tips for shielding your project from threats.
Learn from History
When compiling a risk register for a project, one of the first things I do is read back through my notes on other similar projects to see what went wrong and how I can take learnings from past failures and apply them to my new project in order to make it successful. Notes from lessons-learned meetings are a great source for this. If you deliver a lot of the same type/style of projects, your risk register can almost be a living document that you share between projects – COTS implementations is a great example of similar projects that can share a common set of risks.
So many times project managers will build out a risk register, review it at the kick off meeting and then put it on the shelf without ever dusting it off from time to time to ensure that their risk profile is current. Risk registers need to be reviewed regularly (weekly is a great minimal cadence) with an eye to the horizon on what may be coming up as potential threats to your project. A good exercise is to review all the pillars of your project (schedule, budget, scope, quality) to see what may be threats to those items and identify valid risks so they can be mitigated against. Having a repository where risks can be centrally managed is a great way to help expedite this whole process (vs the proverbial spreadsheet).
Involve Your Team
In alignment with constantly staying vigilant with your risks you need to use your team to help maintain watch. Nobody will have better insight to threats to your project than the people actually doing the work, especially if they are experienced. Getting your team involved early and often for risk management is something that a lot of project managers (even organizations) shy away from but yet some of your team members will have the best perspective on not only identifying risks but how to mitigate them as well. Bring out your risk register at status meetings, give your team direct access to update it, constantly be asking your team “is this a threat?” Get them into the habit of thinking proactively about what may happen rather than just reacting to what has happened.
Risk management is somewhat of an art form. It requires creative thinking combined with rational thought processes. Intuition and instinct also play a part in being able to effectively see threats to your project on the horizon before they manifest themselves into full-blown issues. Following these three tips won’t guarantee your project’s risk exposure but they will certainly put you on the right track for insulating your project from outside risks.