How good is your project risk management? Do you project managers have all the tools they need to really do a fantastic job? You might think so, but look out for these 5 signs that you should be considering how to improve the way your business handles project risk.
1. There Are Too Many Surprises
An easy way to tell that your risk management processes are out of control is that there are far too many surprises. It seems that every project team meeting you attend you hear something about an issue that no one saw coming.
The point about risk management is that you do know what’s coming so you can actively do something about it. Then you have the power to shape the future, either by turning round the situation so it doesn’t happen or encouraging it, if the end result would be something positive.
Good risk management practices enable you to do that. If you are constantly being bombarded by surprises, then you know your risk management needs work.
2. Your Project Managers Are Heroes
The concept of the hero project manager has been around for a while. Hero project managers are those people you put on failing projects. They move heaven and earth to get a project back on track. They motivate a struggling team. They work miracles.
But that kind of behaviour isn’t sustainable. Or particularly desirable. It’s costly to carry out those kinds of remedial activities. The fact your project got into so much trouble in the first place is a sign that all isn’t well with t he way projects, and risk in particular, is being managed.
With solid governance, risk management practices and good project management processes you can avoid the late nights and drama that come with turning around a failing project. It isn’t the stuff of corporate legend and water cooler gossip but it’s a far more sensible way of running your business.
When all your project managers are held up as heroes for dealing with difficult situations and challenging problems, this should be a red flag to you about the state of your risk management processes.
3. You Don’t Have Decent Information
Senior business leaders rely on solid project reporting and accurate status information in order to make decisions. As project sponsors, you have to make decisions on projects all the time: where to invest more, where to slow down so that another project can take priority, how to split the resources so that the most strategic and beneficial projects get finished first.
You can’t make these decisions without information about the risk profile of each project.
Or rather, you can, but the decisions could well be flawed. Without the right information you are adding even more risk to the process. You could be potentially shifting resources around to work on the riskiest projects without knowing that there are underlying issues there. You could be taking away resources from a project that will fail without them – because no one told you that the risk was there.
Risk management information feeds into the data you need to make decisions. Without it, your decisions will suffer and so will the projects you support.
4. Your Teams Are Frustrated
A clear sign that risk management is out of control is a frustrated team. You will see this in how they act. Motivation will be low. Tasks will take longer than you expect because they don’t have the productivity levels they used to. All around, the project team becomes a miserable place to be.
Teams get frustrated when they are trying to do their best work and things get in the way. In this case, risk. Your project managers are attempting to resolve problems and keep the project moving along. They likely have schedules and logs and task management software and Gantt charts, but without an underlying approach to how to handle risk in a mature way – and the management support for those new processes – they won’t be able to implement their projects in a streamlined way. They’ll keep getting caught up in fire fighting risks that no one saw coming. Or if they did see them coming, they didn’t have the management support to do anything about them so they get frustrated at not being able to do the job they want.
Better risk management will alleviate these frustrations and give your experienced project managers the tools they know they need to get the projects completed on time and with the minimum friction.
5. Everyone Works Differently
One of the big tell tale signs that you need to move to a more robust, standardized way of working is that the project teams all manage risk differently.
Consequently, some will be better at it than others. Some teams will spot risk and be able to do something about it. Others won’t know what problems they might hit until they smack them in the face.
With multiple ways of dealing with the same fundamental problem you are never going to achieve consistent management information. You’ll struggle to get information out of teams about the potential problems on their projects. That means you can’t compare project performance or step in to help teams make the right decisions.
Be alert for these signs that you should be thinking again about how you manage risk on your projects. The good news is that all these issues are easy to fix with some dedicated time and the investment in risk management practices across your organization. You will quickly start to see the benefit of solid risk management processes through better decision support information, fewer surprises and less challenge across your project portfolio as a whole.