Many project managers will say to themselves, “My project could never be at risk…I have a defined scope, a full project plan, and the best team assigned. What could go wrong?” The truth is, no matter how perfectly you plan your projects, there is always a chance that unanticipated issues will pop up and impact your work. This is why it’s so useful to implement risk management practices before any project can truly begin.
When most people think of risk management, the mind immediately goes to complicated formulas, spreadsheets, and big dollars set aside for contingency. While that is not entirely untrue, there are many ways risk can be managed in our day-to-day project management procedures.
As a project manager at CQL, there are three key risk management principles that I use on my projects to make sure both the client and our company are protected against project risk.
Team Input and Leadership Alignment on Project Risks is “Make It or Break It”
While the project manager is crucial to the success of a project, they certainly are not the only person on the team who can identify risk. At CQL, all projects start with an internal kick-off meeting. At this time, the team comes together to discuss the new project, review scope, and most importantly, talk about project risks and mitigation plans. The project manager leads this meeting and listens for potential weak spots in the discussion where the team may not have full alignment or agreement on the requirements. These discussions are documented both internally and for the client, which helps both sides keep an eye on the potential risk as the project moves forward. The other benefit to the internal kick-off meeting is that the CQL leadership team attends, which provides a perfect arena for feedback and alignment from the top down.
Understand Who the Project Stakeholders are and Their Motivators for Projects Success
After alignment is set in the internal kick-off meeting, establishing project goals amongst stakeholders is the next, and main, objective. This happens at the client kick-off meeting. It’s important to know where each stakeholder stands on this topic and who the key decision-makers are, as this information will help drive conversations going forward. As projects change or risks are identified, understanding these measures can help teams develop a plan that will keep the project on track. When a change in scope is requested, the conversation should always include a tie back to the end game.
For example: if the goal of the project is a fully featured site, the client may be willing to extend the timeline and increase cost for that work to be done. If there is no flexibility in those measurements, then the conversation changes a bit. It’s the role of the project manager to help identify a solution that mitigates the risk of not meeting the launch date and project budget. In the end, the goal is a win for the client and a win for CQL!
Reiterating Timelines Mitigates the Risk of the Project Falling Behind
Let’s face it: project managers love to put together project plans, but not all clients want to or have the time, to analyze every plan. This risk management tactic is pretty straight forward: every time a deliverable is posted or a decision needs to be made, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to communicate the due date and follow up to make sure the task is completed. Taking this small step helps keep the project on track and mitigates the risk of a project timeline slip. We all know a slip in the timeline has the potential for additional project costs down the road.
See, risk management doesn’t have to be an overly complicated part of a project. The textbook definition does certainly add a layer of complexity that not all projects warrant. That being said, each of the guiding principles from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) offers tactics and ideas that can be easily adapted to any project to help keep it on track.
Have questions for our Project Management team on mitigating project risks, or want to know more about Risk Management in general? Contact us today and we’ll set you up with one of our certified Project Managers for more information.