Posted by: kerrywills | February 20, 2010

Now where did I put that risk log?


Every project that I have ever worked on treats risk management in the following way:
1. Create a list of possible risks early on in the project and document their impact
2. Never look at that list again

I am guilty of this as well but wanted to ponder why that is the case.  I always find an unproportional amount of speakers, articles and books of risk management as compared to other PM topics and found this fascinating in comparison to the number of professionals who actually do deliberate risk management.

It makes sense when planning to document the risks as a way of saying “I told you so” for anything that might come up later on in the project. I always enjoy the following risks that I see on logs related to estimates..

  • Risk we might not finish the work
  • Risk that we didn’t estimate everything
  • Risk that people will leave the project
  • Risk that the solution won’t work
  • Risk the business will change their mind

These aren’t exactly what they say but it is the same essence. We use risks as a way of documenting that we actually don’t have confidence in the plans or estimates and things will come up (which they always d0). This seems almost silly and could be covered by saying “there is a risk that what we put for initial plans will change.”

However, once we start running the project risks usually get pushed to the wayside because we spend so much time with managing the plan, managing the people, communicating, documenting status reports and other day-today activities. It is very difficult to step back and think of all of the possible risks that could impact the project.

I admit that I am not very diligent with a separate risk log. Rather, I spend time looking forward in the plan and making sure that upcoming tasks will start on time, resources are ready when needed and in-flight work is proceeding according to plan. I suppose in a way this is risk management.

I am curious as to what other people do for risk management and think about spending the time on it.

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Responses

  1. Should I note a lack of a risk log as an issue or keep it as a risk? But if it’s a risk, where should I document it if I don’t have a log? Do I need to submit a change control to develop a risk log ? 😉

  2. I discuss and or think about risks on my projects at least three times a week. I usually have agendas for my Project status meetings and new issues and risks is a subject topic. I have two project status meetings a week. One with my sponsors and secondly with each project team. Lastly at the end of each week as part of my weekly administrative and project clean up chores.

  3. Ahhhh…The Risk Management Plan — my favorite tool! Risk Management is huge for me. I love it when team members tell me the risks they’ve identified. I ask for new risks at team meetings, and in casual discussions with team members and 1-1s, and capture and act on any mitigation and document our contingency plans. We review them each week, and often, the team decides that what was thought to be a big, scary risk, is actually a non-issue or low impact/low probability. It helps keep things in perspective.

    Communicating these regularly with my project leadership and the rest of the team ensures we are managing expectations and enables that “transparency” so many of our colleagues ask for. I’d rather point out the warts (and in this case potential warts), and get everyone on board to keep them at bay, and eliminate all the surprises we possibly can! We don’t like surprises. 🙂

    Another key point here — it’s good/important to still capture those risks that could result in a positive. It provides a nice track record, but can also uncover any other interedependencies (or other “negative risks” that weren’t thought of or expected as a result.

    I know it’s not a popular thing to say outloud (and although I do capture risks in Statabase and PPM), I preper to manage my risks in an Excel based Risk Management Plan — maybe it’s a bit old school, but I prefer the flexibility of it, and the sorting and shading/auto formating I can do to help with the view.

    Thanks! Love starting my week out with these blogs!


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