Every project has Risks associated with the delivery of the Business Solution. These need to be discovered as part of the Project Submission process and continue to be anticipated and discovered during the ultimate execution and delivery of the requested business solution.
However, I also believe there are Project Management Risks that are inherent in the process of managing projects from the time they are proposed in a Portfolio or Strategic Planning phase through and including the delivery of the business solution that will be driven by the Project Management efforts.
My favorite list of these Project Management-specific Risks are:
1. Forward progress on an existing plan is at risk unless the team stays focused on the project’s scope and objectives and continues to work on the planned activities
2. Acceptance of Project Deliverables may be delayed by the Project Sponsors if they don’t understand the value, meaning, and importance of its content
3. Available Funding for the project may be recalled when other projects appear to be at a higher priority in the short term
4. Resources working on the project may be re-assigned to other projects if these other projects are deemed to have a higher need because of their timing, poor planning and / or management
Mitigation of these risks can be started as part of the Project Identification / Submission and Portfolio Management activities of each project before each is authorized for funding, resources, and a schedule; however, since these are ‘ever present’ risks, the measurement and risk assessment of these potential hazards must also continue throughout the execution of each project.
A very important early step in Risk Mitigation is Notification to all known participants and stakeholders that we will be identifying these items as Open Risks for the duration of the project. This communication is critical to set the expectations for the Sponsors, Users, Management, Technical and other specialized members of the project team, that we will be treating these items seriously throughout our project’s execution. These ‘ever present’ Risks should be added to the Business related Risks that can also be identified before Execution begins.
In parallel with this Notification of these and other more project-specific Risks, the team should be made aware of the tools and techniques that will be used to measure the impact of these Risks to the overall outcome of our project.
These tools can begin with several of the following approaches and activities:
1. Status Reports written in such a way that each detailed item in the report tells the audience what is expected to happen NEXT (see Risk #1 and #2) once each of the Status Items is included in the report:
a. EG. – The Communication Plan is complete and has been Accepted by the Project Participants and Approved by the Steering Committee.
i. This statement, although correct, leaves the reader thinking that there is nothing else to do now that the Communication Plan is finished. This is, clearly NOT what we want to leave them with.
b. Alternatively – Now that the Communication Plan is complete and Approved, the Project Management Team will begin calling the planned review meetings to measure the effectiveness of the Communication Plan objectives. During these meetings, the Sponsors, Steering Committee, and Participants will have a chance to suggest improvements or changes to the Plan based on our then-current experience.
i. This statement continues to report that the Comm Plan has been Created and Accepted, but it also outlines what must now be done throughout the project since this plan is ready for use / execution.
2. In order to successfully deliver scheduled Project Deliverables (see Risk #3), a Quality Assurance schedule must be established to review these deliverables as they are being developed to assure several things are true:
a. The Deliverable remains “In Scope” and aligned with the Project’s Charter and Goals
b. The Deliverable has not left out or added a new item as compared to earlier deliverables (Project Charter, Scope, Communication Plans, Technical Designs, etc.)
c. The Accepting and Approving audiences for each deliverable are aware of its content, intent, and value before each of these deliverables is ready to be presented to them as “Complete”
3. Regular reporting of the anticipated outcome of the entire project should be provided to the Sponsors, Steering Committee, and Participants so that they are constantly reminded of what they will be getting when the project is successfully completed. This will keep the anticipated value of the project’s results at ‘top of mind’ so that when other projects appear to be in jeopardy (See Risk #4), the decision makers will have the most current information about why our project should remain intact and on plan even if others are not able to maintain their momentum to their projected values.
a. Project scheduling tools and cost tracking capabilities will help to show how much progress has been made on each project against the plan along with predictions of the latest “Estimate To Complete” costs and time so that each project can be compared on, at least, this ROI or CBA level to support any decisions that might be considered for re-prioritizing or re-aligning resources from one project to others.
I assume that many of you have other ‘ever present’ risks attributable to the process and performance of Project Management itself and I would like to hear about them from you. Please either provide a comment to this blog or send me an email with your thoughts at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.