Project Risk – too hot to handle!?

Okay, so we all know that there can be problems in life and in a project! Things go wrong and solutions need to be found.

For your project, it is quite important that you are aware of the risks associated with what you’re doing.

Risk management is another key area within project management and below are seven steps that allow you to keep on top of your risks and manage them successfully.

1. Take time to identify risks

You just have to develop an awareness of what could possibly go wrong within your project. to do this, some key questions to ask are:

  • Where have we experienced problems before?
  • Where can we see the potential for problem already?
  • What are the areas of slightly unknown work where we could have problems because of our lack of knowledge?

2. Valuate your identified risks

Quite simply evaluate the likelihood of each risk factor within the project. You will find some high risk areas. And you will be able also to identify issues which are very unlikely to happen.When you evaluate risks also ask yourself what the potential damage could be.

3. Develop strategies

You will have two groups of risks:

  • high risk elements
  • low risk elements

Once you have confirmed their status as high or low with your key stakeholders, you can now tackle each risk in the following way:

  • some risks have to be totally avoided -> how do you do that?
  • some risks can be reduced to a safe level
  • some risks can be passed on to other departments for assessment and handling
  • and some risks we just have to accept and be aware off

4. Identify action points

There is no point knowing about the risk and not doing anything it!
Once you have established a risk that requires your attention you have two possible routes for action:

  • develop a plan as to how you can avoid this event happening
  • develop a plan to reduce the damage this may cause

5. Making it happen

It’s quite obvious – if you have developed a plan as to how to avoid a problem happening or you have come up with a way to reduce the damage, these ideas need to be implemented.

  • Who on your team needs to be part of the implementation? (Don’t forget to to keep your stakeholders informed!)
  • Which aspects of the projects are impacted by this?

6. Is it working?

The proof is in the pudding! Check whether your risk management strategy works – at this point you will realise whether you have made the right assumptions and identified the right risks. Your responses/plans either don’t work or they will need to be realigned.
Don’t be scared to revisit this place regularly to ensure you are on top of things!
It’s quite key to not rely just on your own judgement. Involve your whole team in assessing whether your risk management strategy works.

7. Keeping and eye out

Risk management is something that is very much ongoing. You can easily find that something initially assessed as low risk slowly becomes much more high risk. If you’ve got your eyes open for this, you will pick up on it and assess it with your team. Going through all the points outlined above. It is also key to be aware that at any time you may acquire new risk factors. So keeping your eyes open is a good idea!

Top tip: ongoing conversations with your key stakeholders and your team will allow you to consistently stay in a risk aware state – assess and re-assess all the time!

Ricarda Baldock works as a freelance project manager and management consultant with experience in SMEs, the charity sector, in IT projects and in the finance sector.
Among her specialties are project planning, strategic analysis, process improvement, project branding and project marketing.