9 Benefits of Risk Workshops
If there’s one thing we hear time and time again from project leaders it’s, “We didn’t see that coming.” Risk management isn’t 100% guaranteed to spot every black swan on the horizon but it is a very good starting point for helping teams see what could be around the corner.
The best way to begin risk identification is to start with workshops. A risk management workshop is the opportunity to focus on the scenarios that could affect you at business, PMO and project level. It’s the chance to get some of your smartest employees in the room with a professional risk facilitator (need one? We can help with that) to uncover the challenges facing your organization.
A risk workshop can focus on any area where it would be beneficial to better understand the things that could have a negative or positive impact on how the organization works. In this article we’ll look at 10 focus areas for risk workshops, and the benefits of each. For ease, we’ve grouped them into three categories.
Project Schedule Risk
- Schedule baselines
A risk workshop focused on schedule baselines can audit the existing baseline schedules within your project management tool of choice. You can also spend time in the session validating the baseline against the scope of project work to check that it’s realistic and that all the tasks are included.
Benefit: A more robust, validated baseline schedule in which project managers and senior leaders can have confidence.
- Schedule logic
A workshop that looks at schedule risk can also focus on logic. All project management scheduling tools use logic to organize tasks on the timeline. But the rules are only as good as the way the tool is set up! An incorrect assumption, or a resource calendar that isn’t quite right, can create scheduling problems later on.
Benefit: Confidence that your schedule is set up in the best possible way to make the tool work for you.
- Schedule maturity
If you don’t have expert schedulers in the PMO team, you may find a large variation in how project schedules are created. That’s OK, but ideally the PMO should be working towards improving schedule maturity across the organization. An impartial risk facilitator can help you spot where schedules are not fully mature, and identify risks related to that.
Benefit: You’ll be able to spot where project schedules are inherently risky due to the maturity of the planning approach. As a bonus, your PMO gets valuable information about how to best support colleagues in improving the way they schedule work to improve maturity.
Quantitative and Qualitative Risk Assessment
- Monte Carlo analysis
If you know Monte Carlo analysis is right for you, it’s worth taking the time to run a risk workshop on how you can best use the approach to get effective data. A session on Monte Carlo could include establishing risk ranges: minimum, most likely, and maximum.
Benefit: The team gain knowledge in how to use Monte Carlo analysis to give them useful information for making better decisions. An expert risk facilitator skilled in Monte Carlo techniques can provide knowledge transfer so your own teams can better use the tool on future projects.
- Risk log
The most common kind of workshop is one focused on populating the risk log or risk register. The team get together, perhaps with an external facilitator depending on their experience and the scale and complexity of the project, to record all the likely risks.
Benefit: An external facilitator – whether that’s a PMO resource or a specialist consultant – can ask questions to flesh out more risks and more options for managing that risk. As someone who doesn’t know exactly what mitigation scenarios might be appropriate in that setting, their focus is instead on the process and helping individuals in the room identify the best approach for dealing with any given risk.
- External risks
External risks are sometimes forgotten. In all the work analyzing ‘known’ risks from internal sources, external risks can be overlooked at the start of a project. A risk workshop can help focus attention on risks from outside. These can then be integrated into the project schedule for analysis.
Benefit: A more holistic, rounded view of the risk facing a project.
Risk Plans and Reports
- Defining risk reports
Risk workshops can also focus on the process for risk management, including risk reporting. Get the right stakeholders in the room and identify what needs to be on the risk report. This is a great workshop to run as a PMO team so you can standardize risk reporting across all projects and programs.
A facilitator can run through the different types of reporting in use in other organizations and provide examples, so you can see what could work for your teams. For example, confidence level histograms and tornado charts are visual ways of reporting project, program and portfolio risk.
Benefit: Clarity on what risk information should be included in a risk report to help decision makers access the data they need.
- Managing assumptions
All work is carried out on the basis of assumptions. The assumptions surrounding risk are important because if you get them wrong, you could be facing a larger or more significant challenge should the risk materialize.
Take the time to understand the assumptions facing projects and the wider business, so they can later be clarified.
Benefit: Better understanding of the risk environment.
- Benefit analysis
Benefit analysis is a valuable technique more suited to organizations with mature approaches to risk management. It involves analyzing the impact of the mitigation activities and forecasting out what that means for the project. In other words, will your mitigation activities have the desired effect? This type of analysis helps you make better decisions about the actions to take on a risk.
Benefit: You can focus your risk mitigation activities in the best way to get the most benefit. You’ll save time by ditching actions that won’t deliver the end results you are seeking, and you can better predict when to stop mitigation at a point where the risk becomes acceptable, so you avoid over-investing in mitigation activities.