Don’t Show Me a Risk Grid – Just Manage Your Project!

Published on March 11, 2013 by

When the pressure is on to launch a critical project within an unrealistic time frame,(you know the kind - where your Director of Web Operations tells you that Marketing insists the project lauch when the new service is launched and sales has promised features no one has ever seen before and may be impossible to build,) you won't get far talking about allocating time for a risk assessment. You are on your own Web PM girl, so buckle down, draw up your risk grid anyway.

Creating a risk grid is not a sexy topic for a blog. Salary trends for PMs - that is a sexy topic, but you won't make those big bucks if you don't plan for risks and have some idea of how likely they are to occur.

So here are is 4 step approach to increase the odds you keep your job:

1. Make a list of the risks you might encounter during the project. Can't think of any? How about these:

  • The testing server's hard drive suddenly quits working
  • A winter storm knocks out electricty and your generator proves defective closing your office for a week
  • Your budget estimates are off
  • The senior programmer comes down with the flu and she is the only one in the office who can work on that ancient Pascal program

By now your paranoid PM mind is generating lots of project doomsday scenarios, right?

Good. Now relax. Take your list, write it down and rank each risk according to how likely it is to occur, the effect on the project if it occurs and what will be the cost in terms of time or money if it occurs. (Agile team leaders don't get too complacent. You can encounter disasters too.)

2. Create a backup plan for the most likely risks (or most devestating.) For example, a risk could well be that it takes longer to program a new feature than estimated. Backup plan, bring that outside contractor you've used a couple of times in to handle some simple coding freeing up your Web team to complete the new feature at a faster pace.

3. Review the risk list at every progress meeting to get an idea as soon as possible if any risks are materializing.

4. Changes to the project plan require a new evaluation of your risk list.

Scrum masters need to evaluate risks too. Changes are easier to accommodate but it is always a good idea to know what your plan is in the event of a real disaster that can affect the team for months.

Risk management isn't sexy, but you can be a hero when disaster strikes and you have the plan to save the project.

And being a hero - that is pretty sexy. Ask any Hollywood star.

1 Comment

  1. Estelle Z. Morse

    So you have your plan on how you are going to deliver your project, now ask yourself “What might stop all of this from happening? How likely is it that it might happen?” The answers are your risks. It is important that you don’t go into a project blind to the risks the project might face. Identify risks that have a high likelihood to occur or that will have a big impact on the project should they happen. Make sure that you have some form of mitigation for these risks. In other words, have a Plan B or emergency plan, should a risk like this actually materialize. Keep your eyes and ears open throughout the project and make sure that you highlight any risk that might pop-up to disrupt your project throughout the project life.

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