PMI Belgium

Three questions on risk

Dmitrii Ilenkov, PMP

April, 2020 

Why are risks important for project manager?

Risks exist in every project. We may have a prudent risk management system or we can ignore them: in both cases risks will occur, they don't really care what we think of them.

Risks are not so banal: it is not about we fail or we succeed. Risks are various and are numerous. For example, a minor risk may cause a delay of one day. But what if we face 10 of those minor risks? Our project would be far beyond the schedule.

Good project risk management doesn’t guarantee we will face no risks and everything goes as planned. Good project risk management helps us deal with risks faster and cheaper.

Risk Image

Why don't we manage risks?

Managing risks is very tricky and not very rewarding.

If you miss a risk, face a problem instead, better a catastrophe, and heroically solve it, you are a hero.

If you keep looking for something bad, that may happen later or may not, you are a pessimist or even paranoiac.  But then you have to make other collaborate looking for mitigation strategies, ask project sponsor for contingency budget approval, convince customers the deadline is too risky.. And if you are really good at what you are doing, you will avoid the risk or deal with its consequences easily. So nothing bad will happen and nobody will notice your efforts.

It is extremely hard to create a risk-oriented culture, where people get rewarded for prevented problems, not for solved ones.

How can we manage unexpected risks

Unexpected risks are a big problem. Normally we tend to deal with so called known unknowns — risks we can imagine: probably, we have already faced them before or we know those who did. We can expect them so we can prepare. It is much harder to imagine something we have never seen.

So the best answer to unexpected risks is sustainability.

Training, contingency reserves, emergency protocols don’t target specific risks, but help us be prepared for turbulence in the future..