Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Manage Projects at Your Own Risk!

A project is a scope of work with a defined end that incorporates three basic factors, time, budget, and quality.  When it is time to set the parameters of these factors, a project manager has to be aware of the   inherent risks within each.   To be the project manager means that you assume all responsibility for the project.  And if the project fails, you are ultimately accountable.  Therefore, you have to be fully aware of all the risks to avoid seeing your project go off the rails! 

The “project manager” title means that you will be at the core of the entire project’s activity.  It will require you to know all that is going on and all that is not going on within your project.  It is the “unknowns” of a project that keep a project manager up at night.  After the ink on the project charter has dried, it is time to start conducting some risk identifying.  Analyzing risk is a lot like communicating in a project, do it early and often.  A risk management plan is a companion to your overall plan and should be considered and revised throughout most stages of your project.  I would even argue that it should be examined before putting together the project charter.  If you are lucky enough to have time to conduct a feasibility study about the potential project, then you would have already identified the more obvious risks before your sponsor blessed the project.    

After you have sat down with your project team and played several rounds of “worst-case scenario,” take your collection of risks and make an action plan for mitigating them. 

Tips for risk mitigation:

·        Assign a probability to each risk factor.  Those factors 80% or above of happening would require more tracking than those with a lower probability.

·        Make sure you have back-up personnel to your core project team trained and ready to jump in the game, if required.

·        Make checklists for project tasks to make certain nothing is left undone and for your records.

·        Check in with your team regularly for status updates and document the meetings.

·        Avoid project fatigue by having off-site or outdoor meetings (donuts help too).

·        Delegate appropriately to qualified personnel or sub-contractors.  Verify their skills before implementation of the project begins.

·        Have an appropriate communication plan.  For example, don’t send an email when the team prefers and responds better to text updates.

·        Make quick decisions about changes and make sure to communicate those changes pursuant to your change management system.

·        If you do not directly supervise your project team, meet regularly with their supervisors to head off any possible delays due to work conflicts or bad job performance. 

·        Document everything! Your project file should have minimally a schedule, calendar, contacts, organization chart, definitions, plan, budget, risk log, risk and mitigation plan, meeting minutes, and answers to any frequently asked questions about the project. 

·        Know what scope creep within your project looks like and extinguish it fast!  There are many factors and ways that a project can be influenced to change its scope.  Identify those and keep one eye on them at all times so things don’t get out of control.

·        To avoid scope creep and find more risks you had not thought about, meet regularly with your stakeholders. 

·        Say “no” to adding or gold-platting to the scope of the project, especially if it impacts the time, budget or quality.

The reality about projects is that there are always going to be some surprises.  I have found that the more people involved in the project tend to increase possible risks.  The best advice I can give for making sure your project runs smoothly is to communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.  In the end, there is nothing that your project cannot survive if you have taken the time to analyze the risks and communicated how to manage them if they should happen. 

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