Thoughts on Risk Assessment

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Thoughts on Risk Assessment

All projects have risks in some form.  As a project manager you should have a clear assessment of the risk involved in your project.  But although most project management best practices recommend a clear risk assessment of some form at the planning stage of a project; many do not achieve this.

What puts people off from doing this key activity.  It can be several things:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of time
  • Inexperience
  • Lack of support and engagement of senior management

Assessing the key risk appropriately and building a risk-based approach into your plan will certainly contribute to the likely success of the project.

Getting started with your risk assessment

Like many activities in project getting started with risk assessment is often the most difficult step.  Some form of risk assessment tool or template can help.  Involving the project team and stakeholders will yield a greater range of information.  From the data gathered you will have a range of uncertainties.  Some may come from assumptions the wider team have made.  Some are clear risks common in some form to all projects.  Others may seem like risks, but further investigation can establish these have been addressed.

From the assembled data you can begin to identify the “real” risks.  With the identified risks you should have a picture of the most likely things to impact the project in terms of time, budget or quality.

Using the Assessment

The assessment should result in a working risk register that you can use to plan the projects approach to risk.

Address those that are likely to stop the project first.  Followed by the risks that will have the highest impacts.  Some you may have to accept and have no immediate plan to address.  These will need to be monitored.  In some instances that monitoring might take place across the whole life of the project.

Look at addressing high impact risks that will not immediately stop the project.  This can be subdivided into smaller groups using probability and proximity.  So, focus on risks that are likely to have a higher chance of impact and that are more likely to be encountered sooner.

Continue the process with medium and lower level risks until you have completed the list.

You can use this analysis to confirm your approach to each risk.

Ongoing Risk Management

The initial assessment is just the start of the story. Having formed a reasonable assessment and populated a risk register, you must ensure you manage risk and review it appropriately during the life of the project.  New risks will appear and many will be closed or removed as your project progresses.  But the biggest risk of the assessment itself is that all the work put into forming it is wasted because no ongoing risk management takes place.    

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