There is a great temptation at Project and Programme Boards and review meetings to discuss all the up to date schedule and technical related work and in the last five minutes or so to quickly ‘review the top 10 risks’ and then close. Perhaps this is an overly cynical view of how boards and meetings work and most of them are truly guided by the top 10 risks themselves, or maybe not – wouldn’t it be good?
Nevertheless, it is all too often the case that risks get partitioned off into their own separate review meeting after there has been a Risk Identification Workshop to brainstorm the risks at project initiation. While not wrong the way risk management dovetails into the overall governance arrangements is key to successful project delivery.
Regular updating of risks is an obvious activity, the results of which get fed into management reports but almost by definition it’s the higher scoring (probability and impact) risks that necessarily get focused on by senior managers. Unfortunately it can be lower scoring risks that are thought about initially that come back to bite the project later, appearing as ‘surprises’ and giving rise to knee-jerk reactions and senior level interventions which may or may not be helpful.
There are extremes of course and the extremely low probability and very high impact Black Swan events cannot by their very nature be specifically mitigated against although businesses can ensure they are as prepared as possible.
So what should be done to ensure the low scoring risks, those ones that show up as green on the Probability-Impact Charts, don’t suddenly become surprises that need immediate action? It’s all about good risk management practice and not brushing over the risks that people believe are unlikely to happen because time has run out in the risk review meeting.
If the risks are still considered appropriate then judge whether the probability of them happening has gone up, down or stayed about the same. It may still be low but over a number of reviews a trend may emerge that needs to be looked into.
Likewise, look at the severity of the impact to see if it is changing. What might have given rise to a low impact occurrence in the past may, given the timings on the project have become a high impact.
So make sure trends are plotted for all identified risks and not just the ambers and reds. This way it will be possible to put in place appropriate actions to prevent those ‘surprises’ taking everyone’s attention and diverting their efforts away from business as usual.
Picture courtesy of www.pictfigo.com