The Risk Management Approach
First and foremost, there is a huge difference between project issues and project risks, and to manage a project effectively, you need to know the project risks and plan for mitigation measures as per your risk management plan and risk register. One of the main bad habits I have seen in this line of work is that people working on a project have a risk analysis from the early days of a project, do not actively review, update or change the risk list throughout the course of the project. To support project managers in this area, you will need a good risk management template (preferrably one that includes an ISO9001 numbering system). With the right template, there are simple and effective approaches to risk management:
- Define your risk management approach on one single page and have a quality risk manager either appointed or in place. This can be a part time job for a qualified professional, or a full time gig depending on the size of the project. Their job scope would be to review and amend the risk list on a regular basis, check for changes, check the progress of mitigation measures and of course communicate updates to the team regularly so that everyone is aligned and on the same page.
- The risk list is a comprehensive excel sheet that analyses each risk and defines the necessary measures needed, such as having a plan B in place, etc. This also includes ensuring that the right/accountable person follows up on the measures efficiently and in a timely manner.
- During the weekly meetings, there should be a section allocated about certain project risks, where the appointed risk manager can report if new risks came up or if a change occurred.
- In our approach, the 5 most critical risks are visited either weekly or monthly and is reported to the Management, either in report format or on the dashboard.
So what exactly is the important difference between project issues and project risks?
Based on the above risk management approach, it is assumed that risks are potential future events. A riskcan happen, but it does not necessarily mean that it will happen. Risk management is based on prediction, experience and expertise on this particular subject.
If the risk manager, project manager, stake holder or some other team member knows that a specific risk is unavoidable, then it is no longer a risk: you have a project issue. Where a risk is a potential future event, an issue is an almost guaranteed future event. In short, a project issue is a problem you should deal with immediately while a risk is something you look out for.
How To Deal With Project Issues
To deal with project issues, you ideally create an issue management plan for your project to provide a clear definition about issues and a process with how to manage them. The Project Risk Professional course provides 3 templates on this specific topic:
- The issue management plan;
- The issue form;
- The issue list.
Project issues can become very critical in a project and can have an impact on scope, time and cost. If not dealt with immediately, these issues will have an effect on the whole project outcome.
Project issues are not usually in the timeline or defined in the scope. This is where project issues require project management attention or a project management task force to manage and neutralise these issues before they end up costing you a project! Again, issues should be communicated during the weekly and monthly report and the top 5 issues must be discussed during the project weekly meeting to ensure the whole team is on the same page.
How I Deal with Project Issues
Personally, I deal with issues regularly because it is one of my most prominent jobs as a consultant. I have a PAL that I use daily which supports me in identifying, managing and neutralizing project issues. The PAL is my personal action list. I personally use the OmniFocus App to manage the project issues because I can add pictures, notes, flags and reminders to ensure I get the job done rightly, and in a timely way. And with most apps in today’s technical age, I can manage the issue from my smartphone, tablet and computer at any time.
As a PMP, it is your job to identify and manage project issues all while keeping your emotions in check. Figuring out a system that works best for you can definitely support you in becoming more organised and clear on project issues, and especially what needs to be done.
Another way to keep organised is to keep a paper notebook with you. This way you can stick the table into your paper notebook and have a separator for the issues to make them clearer and easily identifiable. Again, we live in a highly technological age where apps do this automatically, but some project managers choose to keep their risk management paper manually. Regardless, issues and risks are not the same and it should be managed separately in different ways. You don’t want to be wasting your time on a potential risk when you have a definite issue on your hands!
I can say from experience that if you do proper risk management from the beginning of the project, and continue updating and referring to your risk register, usually you will experience significantly less issues during the project.