What Workshop Techniques for Risk Management Do You Use?
Risk workshops are a common way of kicking off the risk management process, either for a project, program or as an activity as part of corporate risk management. Workshops are fantastic as the team comes together to share their expertise, helping you uncover more and get further with your risk plans than you would be working in smaller groups with multiple sessions.
In our experience, risk workshops run by a professional facilitator are more likely to be a better use of your time because they are structured to give you the most out of the session. Whether you are using a professional risk facilitator or managing the session in-house, here are workshop techniques for risk management you can use to get the best out of your time.
Brainstorming and risk identification go hand in hand. This is the easiest way to get started creating a risk list, and you can do it alone or with a team.
Get everyone together – in person or using a virtual whiteboarding tool – and bounce ideas around. You can either give people suggestions for various risk categories to get the ideas flowing, or put people in small groups to chat amongst themselves.
Ask the team to regularly check in as a big group to review the suggestions made and create your list of initial project risks.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a common business analysis tool and it can also help for risk workshops.
Put the headings on flip chart paper (or for an online version, use your favorite note-taking tool) and ask everyone to think about areas of the project that present strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Threats form natural negative risks. Opportunities become positive risks. Strengths and weaknesses can be discussed by the team to see how you wish to record them in the project documentation. You may have discovered a few issues as well, or things that need to be recorded in the stakeholder documentation.
PESTLE stands for:
These are all different factors that can affect your project.
Risks can fall into any of those categories. If your team is drawing a blank and struggling to come up with new risks, break the room into sub-groups. Give each sub-group a category or two and ask them to come up with risks that align to that category.
After a set period of time, bring the groups back together again to present their results. As the room discusses each category, you may uncover more potential risks, or come up with more categories that need further exploration for your particular project.
Risk Breakdown Structure
Once you have a list of risks, it’s helpful to categorize them so they can be more easily managed collectively and in a structured way.
Creating a risk breakdown structure is one way to do that. Group risks according to their source so you can more easily see the overall profile of all risks affecting the project. Follow the general structure as you would for creating a Work Breakdown Structure and include as many levels as required. You end up with a hierarchy of potential sources of project risk. That information informs your risk responses and also helps identify areas of the project where there may be more or fewer risks. You can then decide if you want to spend more time uncovering risk in areas where you haven’t got much identified, just in case there are things you have overlooked.
When you have a list of risks you are happy with, you’ll need to move on to risk scoring. This is also something you can do in a workshop.
Each team member gives each risk a score based on likelihood and impact. Then you can add up and average the team’s risk results to give you a balanced view of the appropriate risk level for that particular risk.
This is a good way to ensure all views are taken into account, although you do need to be clear on what the score levels mean. You don’t want one person in the team rating everything as a three out of five because it doesn’t seem very risky, and someone else using ‘three’ to mean ‘above average risk’.
You may decide to discuss risks as a group where there are outlying scores – for example if someone has rated the risk a one out of five and someone else rates the same risk as a five out of five. Those situations probably warrant a conversation to make sure the risk rating scale has been properly understood and also to ensure both people have the same view of what the risk actually relates to.
Risk management workshops are a valuable way to help everyone understand what the project is doing and the factors that may affect success. They also help set the tone for the work that is to follow, making it clear that this project is taking a proactive approach to risk and governance more generally. Workshops like this help the team start on a professional footing, knowing that the whole project is going to move forward using professional and collaborative techniques for getting the work done.
Risk identification and scoring is only the start of your risk management work. Going forward from there, you’ll want to make sure each risk has an owner and an action plan to help manage the work required to address the risk. If you have enough time on your workshop agenda, you can allocate risk owners and start thinking about action plans, but you might want to leave that for another session. Well-run, facilitated workshops can be energizing, and also exhausting for participants! Take stock of how people are going to feel after spending a few hours thinking about all the things that could go wrong on the project, and plan the rest of your risk management activities accordingly.