Identify Project Risks

8 Tips All Project Managers Should Use

Nuvro Project Management Blog

Where there is no risk, there is no reward. Despite its simplicity, this statement often holds quite true in the real world. When it comes to managing projects, you’re going to face risks, however, if you overcome these risks, the potential rewards can be quite substantial.

Project management is one of the hardest jobs out there. There are so many issues to juggle, employees to coordinate, events and milestones to keep track of, and everything else.  One thing many project managers try to do to help ensure successful outcomes is to identify and mitigate risks, however, identifying all the risks can be a difficult process and it’s not enough to identify the risks and note them at the launch of the project. They must be accounted for with every step.

Taking Risks

It’s tempting to start every project to be managed with a  splash. You gather the team, you present your crisp PowerPoint, you identify key challenges and risks, and then you get cracking. These early-stage presentations can be helpful, but for the project manager, the real work hasn’t even begun.

Fact is, many team members are going to forget about the risks, lose sight of objectives, and otherwise need guidance. Meanwhile, those risks that are not identified and mitigated can result in more wasted resources and time. This can run up costs and decrease outcomes.

So, let’s go over 8 ways to identify risks as a team.

1. Do Your Homework and Conduct Some Research

Before starting the project, do some homework. There are many online forums and other resources where you may be able to discover challenges that teams have encountered in the past. For example, if you’re developing a software program, you might find a Github community where people have developed a similar software platform in the past. Search to see if they encountered any challenges that might be applicable to your project.

2. Interview Key Stakeholders

Once you get the basic research out of the way, it’s time to dig in. Interview key stakeholders, such as clients, contractors, and all the rest. Pick their brains to see if they have any concerns or have identified any risks on their own. Make sure the results of these interviews are well documented.

3.Brainstorm Everything Under the Sun

Next, gather the team and start brainstorming. A whiteboard or similar writable surface can go a long way at this stage. Make sure you establish some ground rules:

  1. With brainstorming, quantity trumps quality. Throw everything at the wall and see if anything sticks.
  2. There is no such thing as a dumb idea.
  3. There’s no need to tear down other peoples’ ideas.
  4. Use other peoples’ ideas as a foundation or waypoint for your own ideas.

It’s great to start with some basic questions. Yes, the brainstorming session should be open-ended but having a good starting point is a smart idea. Pay special attention to project objectives and project tasks.

4. Affinity Categorization

One effective strategy during brainstorming sessions is to have everyone write down risks on sticky notes. Then you can write categories for the risks on a whiteboard or with another method. Finally, have the team sort risks that they wrote down based on the categories.

5.  Create a Risks Checklist

Checklists should come in both at the beginning of the project and the end. First, see if your company has or can create checklists with common risks. Then, you can use this checklist while considering risks for your specific project. Check off the relevant risks and track them.

At the end of the project, you should reflect on the risks you faced and consider if any risks not found on the checklist should be added. This will help people managing projects in the future.

Checklists should come in both at the beginning of the project and the end.Tweet it

6. Use Nominal Group Technique

You can combine points 3 and 4 to create a very honed risk checklist for your group. Using Nominal Group Technique Nominal Group Technique (NGT) you can brainstorm a list of risks to then track. Basically, you and the team will create a list of potential risks and together you will then score them regarding how serious they are.

7. Conduct Thorough Assumption Analysis

Assumptions are often the birthplace of risks. The team or a team member will draw an assumption about something which can then create blind spots. By documenting assumptions, you may be able to identify risks created by the assumptions themselves.

8. Understand Causes and Their Effects

Cause and effect diagrams can be a fantastic resource for mapping up the things that cause risks. By understanding the underlying causes, you may also be able to eliminate the end risks.

Risk identification is a team effort: Some project managers try to manage risks on their own. Big mistake. Remember that risk identification and mitigation is a team endeavor. The more brains working on the issues the better. Many project management experts argue that roughly 90% of risks can be mitigated with sound risk identification.

Six Risk Mitigation Mistakes to Avoid

Let’s wrap this up with a checklist for you to start with. As pointed earlier, checklists are a great tool for risks management. So, we’re going to conclude with a list of “don’ts.”

Don’t:

  1. Underestimate the costs that risks can incur.
  2. Identify risks in a non-iterative fashion.
  3. Overlook the connections between risks and stakeholders.
  4. Assume that risks can be captured in one location or one session.
  5. Assume that risks are captured in cookie-cutter formats, such as assumption > risk > impact.
  6. Cover-up or paper over risks.

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