We are on the last step of the 5-step process being defined to handle risks regarding your project.

With the risks identified and ranked, you and your team are ready to talk about how to mitigate these risks. Again, since generally teams are not staffed to handle every risk identified, the prioritization helps focus resources on the top-most risks. The rest go on a watch list that needs to be monitored in case things change.

Mitigating Top Risks

The first round of risk mitigation should be done during the planning stages of a project when the schedule is being developed. Therefore, you have flexibility to change some activities around. With that in mind, here are some high-level methods you and the project team can explore to mitigate risks:

  • Modify the activity (or activities) to avoid a risk altogether.
  • Re-sequence activities if possible to eliminate or mitigate the risk.
  • Contract a part of the work out either to transfer the risk in whole or to share the risk in part.
  • Define additional activities specifically around dealing with the risk.
  • Negotiate a change to the project requirements to eliminate the risk. (This may or may not be possible depending on the requirement.)

Since I am usually not the technical expert on projects, I try to remain mind wide-open and give the team plenty of room to be creative when identifying options. This is all while being mindful of project constraints.

Recall also that some risks can be opportunities you want to make happen or enhance the chances of happening. The above methods can be explored for these risks, too.

Be cautious of new risks that result out of your strategy to deal with an identified one. If new risks result, add them to the risk register, rank them, and deal with them appropriately. You will need to do the same even well into project execution as new risks are identified. Just make sure that any changes to the project plan go through proper approvals and are properly communicated.

Let me digress for a second to illustrate these ideas with my own experience… and brag on one of my prior teams. On one project, we were sitting around trying to figure out how to mitigate some pretty major risks to the project. I had briefly stepped out of the room while the team was still in discussion. When I stepped back in, the team wanted to pitch an idea they thought would never fly. I LOVED it! It was a brilliant solution though unconventional. I circulated the idea to key stakeholders and got buy-in. We planned it out, addressed risks that fell out of this new strategy, and implemented it. It turned out so much better (both in reducing time and risk) than any of the typical answers to the problems we were facing. …Yes, I agree, the team was awesome!

Watching the Watch List

Once you have identified the proper actions to take with the top risks, the remaining risks on the register should not be forgotten. They form your “watch list.” Events may occur that make a low priority risk high priority. Keep an eye on these risks and be intentional about reviewing them with the team to make sure their probability or impact values have not changed with the project’s progression. To this end, make risks a standard line item on your team meeting agenda.

A project is susceptible to risks until it is done. Do your best to identify as many risks as possible during planning, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Other risks will arise as a project progresses. So be vigilant and you will do better in controlling your project rather than having it control you.

There are many other tips and ideas for risk management, I am sure. These past few posts are just what I have found helpful for me. I hope they help you, too.