Common Mistake in Risk Management
Chetan Satoskar

From driving cars to handling emails asking for password details, we are more risk aware today than we were 10 years ago.

Project risk management is often misunderstood as a function that adds more documentation and less action. We expect the project manager to be in the midst of action with significant time spent on communication and status meetings. The time he/she spends on risk management activities gets the client's and other stakeholders' support only when any issue arises.

The key is to be risk aware and not merely risk averse.

The below pointers explain how a project manager can become more risk aware:

  • My project cannot/does not have risks; the project is 'green' on the account dashboard
    Has there been a risk identification session with all your stakeholders, project team members and third party vendors' Do not come to any conclusion before such a session; you may be in for a surprise. Risks are uncertainties that exist even in the most stable project that meets all the parameters.

  • My client/account doesn't have risk management as a function set up, so I need not focus on it
    The project manager is the project owner who is accountable if anything goes wrong with the project. In case a risk manifests, the stakeholder's first question to the project manager will be on risk identification and assessment.

  • My project gets over in two weeks, so why spend time on risks
    That's great but what about extraneous factors such as holidays when resources are hard to find, a network change, or a freeze period or period when client systems cannot give you approvals to perform your decommission project - Risk assessment takes care of such factors even if the probability of them impacting the project is minimal.

  • I'm waiting for the planning to complete and the proposal to be finalized to start identifying risks within each area
    There is no best time to start risk management. Risks come with the first proposal of the project charter.

  • Software feature as a magic bullet for risk
    It is perceived that one only needs a software dashboard or a software feature to complete risk management. Many software providers will say their products show project risk. But remember, that is no magic bullet in the form of software that can bypass risk management.

  • Let me go one step at a time; I'll first identify the risks and then tackle each when it comes
    Project managers must realize that there must be an action plan in place before any risk takes place. You can forecast uncertainties but you can never guarantee that it will take place only after you are ready for it.

  • Forgetting risk monitoring and control activities
    Revisit low ranking risks to see if risk responses need to be determined. Look for any unexpected effects or consequences of risk events. Make changes to the project plan when new risk responses are developed.

  • Communicating about risks due to changes
    Be clear with the stakeholder about the consequences of a risk. The customer is not sure of the functionality of a particular system and that changes are expected. If a project delay or rise in cost is expected due to a change in the system, communicate it to the customer.

  • All issues have to come out of risks only and must be recorded at the start of the project
    Heard about known-unknown and unknown-unknown risks - If a resource resigns during the course of your project, it will impact the project; it's a risk you are aware of but don't know when it will appear. This is a known-unknown risk. If the shipment of some hardware components gets stuck due to a hurricane or the resources need to evacuate the premises due to a fire while performing a critical task, it will impact implementation. These are unknown-unknown risks.

A proactive approach will help project managers to improve risk awareness and thereby manage risks more effectively.

(Mr. Chetan Satoskar, BE, ITIL, PMP, is an experienced risk manager with 14 years of diverse experience in IT enabled services and IT outsourcing. He currently works with Accenture as service delivery manager.)

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