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June 27, 2017
Technology Solution Delivery

Bear Down on Risk Management

Being a sports fan in Chicago is not easy.  As a diehard Cubs and Bears fan, I have experienced much heartache rooting for “my” teams.  Currently, these storied franchises could not be further apart in their journey to build a successful team.  After over 100 years of not winning the World Series, the Cubs rebooted their organization’s strategy and rebuilt their team through effective scouting of prospects and veterans to find players who have the right attitude (culture fit) and the right skills to succeed.  The Bears, on the other hand, are at the beginning stages of their rebuilding process. In the 2017 NFL draft, they took a huge risk by trading several draft picks to move up one spot to select a quarterback that has the potential to be great based on scouting benchmarks but has equal potential to fail given that he had limited college playing experience (only started 13 games!).

Regardless of industry, risk management plays a major factor in decision making.  Whether you are the General Manager of a Chicago sports team or are performing Project Management on an IT project, managing risks can impact your team’s success. For this reason, Kenway has a defined risk management approach that is implemented on all projects regardless of size and scope.

First, let’s look at the complexities of risk management.  It is more than listing all things that can go wrong; instead, it is the art of prioritizing risks, identifying and calling out when they are occurring and being prepared to act when a risk becomes an issue. To improve your risk management procedures, consider leveraging the following tactics:

Know your drivers: Every project is constrained by one of the three core project drivers of budget, schedule and scope. Understanding your project’s driver will help you understand the most important risks to your project.

Log your risks: Documentation is an asset to a project.  Too often, we come up with excuses as to why a risk should not be documented. Have you ever heard the excuse that we should not log a risk, because it “may look bad?”  Do you manage risks solely through a mental list and communicate it only when you think it is appropriate? Regardless of the rationale for the alternatives, documenting fact-based risks will increase the likelihood of project success.  The reality is, risks are things that haven’t occurred yet.  Why should anyone have a concern about documenting something that hasn’t gone wrong?

Define risk priority: Risks should be prioritized based on their impact to the project and the probability of their occurrence. At Kenway, we use a 10-point scale to rate impact and probability.  By multiplying the impact by the probability, we get the severity of each risk that can be used to rate priority against the other risks.

Understand symptoms and triggers: This is by far the most common area where risk management can be improved.  What use is a risk management plan if you don’t have the tools in place to identify when a risk is becoming an issue?  At Kenway, we identify up front the potential signs that a risk is coming to fruition. This allows us to react quickly at the first sight of a symptom and turn our mitigation plan into an issue resolution strategy.

Have a mitigation plan: Be prepared by having a plan to mitigate risks.  The plan should be inclusive of both how to mitigate the risk and who should be involved.  And if the risk does manifest into an issue, have the tools in place to resolve it quickly.

Monitor: Risk management is not a one-time event at the beginning of a project.  It should be revisited and updated by the project manager and communicated to project stakeholders on a regular basis.  Keeping on top of the risk log can ensure that your project team continues to stay ahead of challenges.

In regards to the Bears draft pick, as a fan, I sure hope they have a robust risk management plan in place in the event of quarterback failure.  They must think the probability is low, but I sure know the impact would be high.

If you are interested in learning more about Kenway Consulting’s Project Lifecycle capability or our approach to project risk management, please contact us at info@kenwayconsulting.com.

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