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Project Risk Management – and the Biggest Project Risk of All

written by: John P. Reiling • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 10/1/2016

Not all risks are created equal. Indeed, some risks have a minor effect, and while others are complete deal breakers! However, one risk trumps them all…

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    Back to the Project Charter

    Project Risk Management – and the Biggest Project Risk of All Near the beginning of the project, we create a project charter document. The purpose of this document is to outline, in no uncertain terms, a high-level approach to all aspects of the project. This outline includes critical areas like what the project is all about, who will participate, what the product of the project is, budgetary consideration, and more.

    These are all critical, and I outlined them in detail in my second article in this series. In fact, reconsidering all of the elements of the project charter from a risk perspective ensures that you are thinking about inherent risks in every area of the project, enabling you to think more broadly and more thoroughly.

    However, in the final analysis, there is one risk that still stands above all the rest…

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    The One Risk You Must Monitor

    What is the purpose of your project? Why are you doing it? What results do you hope to achieve? How is the project supposed to change things for your organization?

    These as a whole constitute the "million dollar question." You really should not even move forward with the project until you have a satisfactory answer!

    However, simply having that answer, while a great step, is akin to having a list of brainstormed risks at the beginning of the project. You need to use the list on a regular basis to really monitor your project and identify as early as possible if there is an issue.

    Indeed, your biggest risk is that your project will not achieve what it was supposed to achieve! You must monitor progress toward that end throughout the project! It requires diligence and a bit of a different mindset, but you must, able all else, move your project toward realizing its purpose. If that is in jeopardy, it is your job to report that –and potentially change direction.

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    The Answer is Metrics

    You may be familiar with the balanced scorecard approach to management. It takes the strategic drivers in key areas of a business and constructs a scorecard that is reviewed regularly to ensure the business is going where it needs to go.

    With projects, the problem is essentially the same. While it’s one thing to ensure that the project is achieving adequate quality within the prescribed timeframe and within budget, it is an entirely other thing to ensure that the project is on track to achieve the strategic impacts to the organization. The key is to identify that key strategic objective, find a way to measure it, and monitor progress toward it by using that metric throughout the project as part of the risk management process.

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    Monitor Your ‘One Risk’ Above All Else

    Indeed, your biggest risk is that your project will not achieve what it was supposed to achieve! You must monitor progress toward that end throughout the project! It requires diligence and a bit of a different mindset, but you must, able all else, move your project toward realizing its purpose. And if that is in jeopardy, it is your job to report that –and potentially change direction.

Project Risk Management

This series looks at the basic Risk Register; the “scope" of project risk management, laying out the various areas where project risks live; agile risk management, or special considerations for managing risks on agile projects; why all risks are not created equal, and the biggest risk of all!
  1. Project Risk Management and the Risk Register
  2. The Scope of Project Risk Management
  3. Project Risk Management on Agile Projects
  4. Project Risk Management – and the Biggest Project Risk of All