Anyone who has read the PMBOK Guide or taken the PMP exam knows that project management is made up of an interconnected and iterative set of processes. Even a highly predictable project requires a team to iterate back to earlier executed processes when faced with a change request.
So why is it that we tend to forget to re-execute certain key project management processes? It’s likely because they aren’t as well understood by our team, sponsor and other key stakeholders. It’s rare that maintaining schedule or financial baselines and forecasting these project dimensions is neglected as there are usually external forces ensuring that this occurs periodically.
But let’s think about risk and stakeholder identification and analysis. Just like developing a schedule or a budget, these processes are commonly performed early in the life of our projects. But it is very common to find projects where these processes are never revisited.
The risk of ignoring them is significant.
Skipping out on full lifecycle risk management means we could continue to invest in monitoring obsolete risks while remaining blissfully unaware of new threats or opportunities. We might also be missing changes in the profile of existing risks. Some low risks on our watch-list might have increased in severity whereas others which we are actively responding to could have dropped in priority. As risk responses are implemented we want to understand what residual risk remains and update our knowledge of these risks accordingly.
The same holds true for stakeholder information and engagement activities. We might miss a new highly influential or impactful stakeholder that arrives on the scene after our initial stakeholder analysis. Or a stakeholder whom we felt had little interest in our project might become more visible than before.
We expect that overall risk and the relative influence of stakeholders should decrease over the life of a project as we start delivering scope and uncertainty decreases but if we keep looking in our rear view mirrors we are likely to miss the runaway Mack truck bearing down on us.
Avoiding this requires discipline on the part of the project manager. Consciously challenging themselves and the team to periodically revisit risk and stakeholder registers for currency and accuracy can reduce the likelihood of occurrence.
To extend Donald Rumsfeld’s famous taxonomy, we create unknown-knowns by not iterating back through all applicable project management processes.