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Risk Management: The Risk Officer

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

Although a project manager holds responsibility for all aspects of a business initiative, appointing a separate team member as Risk Officer can improve interpersonal relations while avoiding groupthink.

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    A Role for Your Team’s Contrarians

    Every group has a contrarian, someone who likes to poke holes in any idea or argument. In many organizations, leaders wonder what to do with team members who seem unusually negative or who enjoy playing devil’s advocate at the expense of the rest of the team. However, in a highly functional project team, that negative view can actually lead to major success.

    Many business experts suggest that appointing a “Risk Officer" to each project team takes care of two major drawbacks to modern project organization. First, it allows the project manager to take on the role of cheerleader, to really stay positive and to help the team find ways to succeed. Second, it gives another high contributor on each project an outlet for their negative thoughts and feelings. By actively encouraging at least one member of the team to catalog risks to the project, leaders can channel that energy into a positive outcome.

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    Carefully Defined Duties

    It’s important to note that the Risk Officer should be a team member who likes to take contrarian views about the path to success, not someone who actively wants the project to fail. Project managers may have to deal with the presence of a truly negative team member by marginalizing or eliminating that individual. Instead, Risk Officers can be tasked with maintaining the risk database, providing regular reports on changes in risk status, and performing vulnerability assessments. By putting a team member with a justifiably negative view in a position of prominence, project managers can underscore the importance of minimizing risk.

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    Performing Vulnerability Assessments

    When compiling the risk database, project managers and Risk Officers often encounter risks with vaguely defined triggers or outcomes. Risk Officers can use that data and their own research to quantify the prospective risk for each concern raised by team members during the early phases of the project cycle. Depending on the potential impact of the project, a vulnerability assessment may be as simple as gathering some data or as complex as running a simulation of real world usage. Reporting results to the project manager and to the rest of the team can lead to changes in resource allocation or adjustments to the project timetable.

Risk Management

Although companies use the phrase “risk management" to refer to numerous initiatives, project management professionals focus their efforts on predicting the events that might cause projects to fail. Appointing a risk officer, tracking risk, and reporting risk contribute to overall effectiveness.
  1. Using Risk Management Plans to Prevent Project Failure
  2. Risk Management: The Risk Officer
  3. Risk Management: Keeping Track of Risk and Utilizing a Risk Manager
  4. Policies For Risk Management: Risk Reporting
  5. Risk Management: Measuring Effectiveness