Five essential techniques to manage your risks proactively

As a project manager, I deal with risk on a daily basis – every project, no matter the size, has its inherent risks.

Risk is defined as an uncertain event or set of events, that should it occurs, will have an effect on the achievement of a project objective. The best way to successfully manage this is by identifying and acknowledging the risk to your project and manage it from the initiation phase. This way you are engaging with your risk from day dot proactively and not putting out fires every single day.

There are plenty of examples of projects that have gone bust due to poor risk management. The recent one that comes to mind is the 2016 Australian e-census, where the website crashed and could not be revived on the night of the census. It was a major project fail and a clear indication risk management missed the mark.
So, what should a project manager do to manage risk successfully?

Identify risks early

Most project managers start a “risk register” as soon as they get on board a project. This may be a spreadsheet or an online tool e.g. Open Air. If you work in a consultancy make sure you ask your sales team if there are any risks the client or they have identified. Furthermore get feedback from your team and stakeholders on any known risks.

Risks must be discussed regularly with your team, it would be a good idea to check with your team of any at the end of every stand-up and with your stakeholders at every checkpoint meeting.

Who is the responsible owner?

If you, as the project manager, are managing the risk, you must identify the responsible person who will own it. The owner is responsible to work with the project manager in identifying a mitigation strategy and helping with the contingency plan.

What is the impact?

Identify and document the impact for every risk in your register. The impact is essentially the probabilities and consequences of the risk event if it is realised. It is the first step in the process of assessing and prioritising project risks. Prioritisation is important, as this provides insights on the critical risks that need to be managed/mitigated at the earliest instance or it will materialise and become an issue.

Do you have a risk mitigation/contingency plan?

Maintain a mitigation/contingency plan to manage and contain your project risks .This is most important for ones with high priority.

Monitor risks regularly

As your project progresses some risks are no longer relevant and priorities of other ones may change. The project manager must review the risk register on a regular basis, the frequency depends on your project. If the risk is no longer valid, then update it with your resolution comments and resolution date and close the risk.
Update your team and stakeholders on the status of your risk regularly via checkpoint reports.

Managing and mitigating project risks is an indispensable part of a project manager’s job. By following these five essential techniques to manage your risks proactively, you can avoid having to put out fires on a daily basis.