Risk Management – Plan For The Best

A great deal of discussion surrounding project risk management focuses on reducing the occurrence of negative events. This is natural since we’ve all seen projects effectively destroyed by a foreseeable disaster for which a team failed to adequately prepare. The praise that accompanies a successful outcome also pales in comparison to the blame and career damage that results from failure. However, this doesn’t mean project managers should ignore the positive side of risk management.

Are You Prepared To Have Things Go Spectacularly Right?

Positive risks are generally referred to as opportunities in project management terms – and not in the feel good “all problems are opportunities in disguise” way. These events provide the potential to dramatically improve the outcome of a project by:

  1. Reducing length of time to completion and/or reducing required manpower
  2. Reducing total project costs
  3. Increasing the quality/quantity of the finished “product”

As part of your risk management planning, you should take the time to evaluate the chances that positive opportunities will arise. You should also determine to the best of your ability what form they may take. That way, you can recognize them when they come along and exploit them to your advantage.

Examples of fortunate circumstances that occur during project management might include:

  • The acquisition of a new resource that reduces labor – automation of a process that was formerly done manually or the introduction of software that makes analysis easier might greatly increase efficiency
  • A successful outcome of initial product testing with little or no need for revisions – this might cut an entire phase out of the project’s life cycle, truncating the time to completion
  • A total lack of absenteeism from employees for the duration of the project – this means you will need to be prepared to keep your full workforce on task
  • A drop in the price of necessary raw materials – monitoring of pricing trends in concert with Procurement may allow you to source these at a reduced cost

Give Good Luck a Helping Hand

If you have identified a positive risk, doing your best to make it a reality is a demonstration of good project management on your part. For example, having access to the brain power of an experienced employee in another department might be a boon. However the chances of that individual being freed up from other responsibilities are low. In that case, you might increase the chances of obtaining this person as a team member by sharing some of your labor resources with that department.

Or, if the arrival of parts required for a specific project phase well ahead of schedule would positively impact the overall timeline, it may be worthwhile to spring for expedited shipping. Sometimes, this action might also lower the likelihood of a negative event later in the project (such as weather delays that tend to occur during a specific time of year). So, it can represent a two-pronged approach to risk management that could help justify a slightly higher initial expenditure.

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