Brainstorming is an important part of the opportunity and risk identification process. Apply brainstorming best practices for a more effective brainstorming effort.
Project managers should consider opportunities and risks early on because the cost of mitigating an issue increases exponentially as the project matures. So project managers should front load their opportunity and risk management efforts. The first step in opportunity and risk management is the identification of both opportunities and risks. And the primary goal in any opportunity and risk identification effort is a comprehensive risk register.
You want to have confidence that your risk register considers all potential opportunities and risks. It is therefore most important that your opportunity and risk identification research is complete. Brainstorming is the primary opportunity and risk identification tool. Therefore it is too the project’s advantage to implement well-thought brainstorming procedures to confirm the capture of all project related opportunities and risks.
This article briefly discusses sound brainstorming guidelines to generate an exhaustive project opportunity and risk register.
Brainstorm Opportunities First
The first advice is to brainstorm opportunities before risk. Yes, the order of these brainstorming efforts is important. Our minds find it more natural to focus on risks. Too much focus on risk though creates a negative perspective of the situation, and makes it more difficult to consider positive opportunities. So prioritize opportunity research to achieve a more balanced opportunity and risk assessment.
Brainstorm as a Team
Instead of acquiring opportunity and risk assessments separately from individuals, consider working as a team to generate an opportunity and risk register. This requires a workshop. But the combined effort of a diverse group of team members captures better and more all-encompassing ideas. This does not mean individual research is not valued. In fact, individual brainstorming before a team brainstorming workshop ensures the maximum diversity of ideas during the workshop. But to leave out the team workshop is a critical mistake. So ask individual team members to consider project opportunities and risks, and later have them consider these same and other opportunities and risks as a group.
Brainstorming and Lessons Learned
Leverage opportunity and risk registers from previous and similar projects to generate brainstorming ideas for your new project. Companies should keep a library of common opportunities and risks by project type. These would come from the lessons learned phase of the respective projects. So lessons learned checklists help capture all known opportunities and risk. But a word of caution. We recommend holding off a checklist review until late in the brainstorming workshop. This helps avoid “anchoring”, i.e. fixating, on the lessons learned and not thoroughly considering all other opportunity and risk potentials.
Continue brainstorming even after a full list of opportunities and risks has been identified. Study the less known project opportunities and risks to, possibly, generate more ideas. Consider potential opportunities to address several risks simultaneously. And additional scope may be a source of more opportunities.
A comprehensive risk register is a noble but lofty goal. Our minds are more geared toward the negative. So first consider opportunities to achieve a more thorough and balanced opportunity and risk analysis. Individual research is good, but a team oriented brainstorming session is paramount. A team workshop ensures better and broader ideas, and a more complete register, which is the goal.
The opportunity and risk analysis requires consideration of your company’s library of lessons learned. Well organized companies have lessons learned checklists to support a thorough risk register analysis. Finally, look for additional opportunities and opportunities to address multiple risks. It is very difficult to guarantee an all-inclusive opportunity and risk register, but stepping through these brainstorming guidelines will go a long way in helping confirm the completeness of your respective project’s register.