Make the Best of YOUR Project Risks
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden
The best time for you to imagine your worst-case scenario is long before it ever happens. You are not engaging in negative thinking, YOU are being strategic. The best time for you to imagine the best-case scenario is long before it ever happens. You are not just engaging in wishful thinking, you are being strategic.
The minute that a project idea is discussed is when you and your team should start thinking, “What could happen?” You are not shooting down an idea, and you are not being unrealistic. You are helping to ensure the success of this new project. The better prepared that you can be, the more likely you are to be able to navigate those unknown and unplanned events.
The truth is I want everyone to consider walking around with a mindset of thinking, “What could happen?” When your team member tells you they’re going to finish an activity early don’t just thank them and move on, think “What does that mean, what could happen because this piece of work is completed early?” If it’s on the critical path of course it means we have the potential to complete early. If it is not on the critical path you have the opportunity to take that resource and perhaps place them on a critical path activity or have them help someone else who’s having a difficult time. In that way you are practicing risk management because you are recognizing an opportunity. In the same way if a team member approaches you to tell you that it looks like some materials that have been ordered are going to be late you want to think to yourself “What could happen because these materials are going to be late, what can be done about this?” I really am asking you to develop a proactive mindset.
Another way that I say this is when you have a colleague who is managing projects and it looks like her projects always go very smoothly, you might be tempted to think that she always gets the easy projects to manage. That is probably not the case. Your colleague is probably very good at risk management and she walks around with a proactive mindset. She makes it look easy because she has identified and determined responses for many threats and opportunities that her project team will face.
You never want your project sponsor to look at you and say, “YOU should have seen that coming.” Perhaps it is more reasonable to say, you never want your sponsor to look at you and say, “YOU should have seen that coming,” AND know that they are right.
If you and your team have done a good job with risk identification and in prioritizing your risks and preparing responses for those risks, then you know whether or not it was reasonable to see something coming. Some risks truly are the ‘unknown, unknowns’, while others are the ‘known, unknowns’. When you are able to assemble the right people with a depth of experience, you will be able to capture the risks that your project is likely to face. It is OK if some of you are new, as long as you have access to someone who has been involved in similar efforts. When you are new, some risks will be beyond your level of experience. To you, they might feel like ‘unknown, unknowns’. With experience your list of the ‘known, unknowns’ grows and you develop a sense of understanding exactly what it is that could happen on your way to project completion.
Accept the fact that your project plans will change. And risks becoming a reality are a type of change that you will experience. For the most likely and most impactful risks you will have responses. In this way, as our opening quote indicates, things will turn out best for you because with your risk responses prepared, you are able to make the best of the way things turn out. See how that works?
Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Margaret Meloni