Posts Tagged With: Risk management

A risk management ode to project managers!

Father’s Day might be a holiday which is much newer than the project management profession itself, but let’s not miss the opportunity to celebrate the many ways in which project managers help their projects succeed through effective risk management.

F is for Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, which can be a mouthful to say,

A is for avoidance to hold critical risks at bay,

T is for risk transfer for which we’ll have to pay,

H is for human bias, which can stand in risk management’s way,

E is for expected monetary value analysis, which calculates outcomes come what may,

R is for reserves, which prevents realized risks from ruining our day,

S is for simulations like Monte Carlo for us to play,

D is for Delphi where estimators go to pray,

A is for assumptions which come in many shades of grey, and

Y is for yellow which our project dashboards should never display.

Happy Father’s Day to all!

 

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Focus on individual impacts when communicating risks!

less-is-more-8A recent article by Uzma Khan and Daniella Kupor in Harvard Business Review adds support to the argument for keeping things simple when it comes to communicating risks.

Through a series of experiments focused on positive and negative risks, the authors determined that there is a greater likelihood of individuals making an objective, logical decision when a single significant impact is presented as opposed to when that same impact is presented along with a number of other lower impact outcomes.

In their own words “Thus, adding prizes that make a sweepstakes objectively more valuable ends up decreasing the sweepstakes’ perceived value. Similarly, noting smaller side effects that make the drug objectively more dangerous can in fact make it appear less dangerous by making the larger side effect seem even less likely to happen. This biases us against taking positive risks and avoiding negative ones.”

How might this sort of bias be relevant to our understanding of project risk management?

Recognizing that risk owners are frequently reluctant to commit time or political influence to actively responding to a risk, we might be tempted to try to stack the deck in our favor by communicating multiple potential impacts which might result if the risk gets realized.

By doing this, we might actually diminish the perceived threat or opportunity presented by the risk resulting in risk owners responding in the exact opposite manner than what we had hoped for.

To avoid this, while it is a good idea to capture complete information in our risk registers, when presenting risks to stakeholders, focus on communicate the single impact which presents the greatest threat or opportunity. Then, if you don’t get the buy-in you were hoping for, add weight to your argument by sharing other potential impacts.

As the authors state “…when it comes to helping people evaluate risk, less is more.

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Tips for taking over an active project

I’ve written previously about the need for a project manager to proactively plan for a smooth transition if someone else will be assuming the role on one of their projects. Should you be fortunate enough to find yourself taking over from a project manager who has followed some of those suggestions, it will make your life easier.

But often we don’t have that luxury.

When projects get into trouble, rightly or wrongly, the project manager may have been identified as a convenient sacrificial lamb and you might join the project after they have been expeditiously shown the door. Other times the individual might have just been moved to a different, higher priority project but they did not maintain a complete, accurate project control book or they may simply not have the time to help with your onboarding.

In such cases, what should you do?

Meet the sponsor

Even if there are documents such as a charter or project management plan, there’s no substitute for learning about the needs and wants of your sponsor as early as possible. Developing a productive, symbiotic relationship with this critical stakeholder will often make the difference between success and abject failure.

Make sure you take the time to understand what they expect from you from both a communications and expectation management perspective, but also gauge their willingness to support you when decisions, issues or risks have been escalated to their attention.

Meet the team

Recognize that the team will be experiencing the change churn of having lost a leader.

If the previous project manager was despised, you will bear some of that baggage and will want to ensure that you don’t get drawn into a comparison competition with your predecessor or having to defend the value of project management. On the other hand, if the team adored their project manager, you may face suspicion and resentment and will have to avoid the temptation to become defensive about why you were placed in the role.

Be curious, ask questions, but most important, strive to be a servant-leader, giving the team some time to grieve but also demonstrating your value by escalating or ideally removing any hurdles that have hampered their productivity.

Trust but verify current state

Status reports, feedback from the sponsor or the team might provide you with insights into the project’s state, but seek evidence that supports their assessment.

Identify recent milestones and confirm that different stakeholders agree that those have been successfully met. Once you understand what milestone is coming up, check with the sponsor and team to ensure that there is alignment towards its completion. Ask questions about the top three risks and issues. Check the financial health of the project with your finance partners to ensure the books are in good shape.

While a project plan might exist for your project, you should still create a personal onboarding plan reflecting the specific activities you will need to complete to be effective in your new role. Treat this role transition as you would any meaningful project – plan the work, and then work the plan!

 

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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