Few project leaders want to spend the up-front time and money to actually put together a risk management plan, but it truly needs to be your first step in effectively managing risks on your project. Without a plan in place at the beginning, your customer and team have no idea how you’re going to manage risks and issues and what their role is going to be. And let’s face it, if you don’t lay out everyone’s role in advance, then you’re likely the one who will be doing all the work--and that’s not a productive solution either.
What about your executive management? They want you to be successful, right? But they’ve attended the project kickoff meeting (hopefully, because this really kicks off the project right for the customer as it’s a good confidence booster for them) and now they want action. Action isn’t exactly sitting down and putting together plans on how you’re going to manage risk, communications and changes on your project. That feels like busy work to them--the opposite of action. And, it basically is. But that doesn’t mean it those plans aren’t important.
Putting the proper plans in place up front--and getting paid for them as deliverables (we’ll address this another time because it’s a subject you’ll need to take up with the deal closer in your organization)--can set the stage for very productive work on the project as the engagement progresses. And it gives you as the project manager pre-planned milestones and signoff opportunities to verify and track completed work. (Mention this to executive management as billable work and deliverable signoff and they’ll be excited.)
Back to risk management: Your risk management planning needs to include four steps in order to be effective and in order to be a “sellable” tool in your project management process:
It’s critical to set aside time on your project for risk planning activities. You and your team will be that much more prepared when potential risks are realized on the project. Think of it as buying homeowner’s insurance. You many never need to make a claim, but you’re more confident when you know it’s in place and you’re sure glad you have it if the unthinkable ever happens.
One more thing to consider: Don’t underestimate the potential risks that can be invited in to play from outside vendors you use on your project, and from your customer as well. Be sure to look into all angles when you’re analyzing potential risks during the planning phases of your engagement.