Project Risk Management – Encouraging Stakeholder Involvement

Project Risk Management – Encouraging Stakeholder Involvement

In small to medium organizations, risk is often ignored in the project context. Generally small organizations have no formal risk management process. Risk identification, assessment and management is left to middle and project management. Regardless, risk identification and management is intrinsic to the project processes and must be addressed continuously throughout the project process. But, this cannot be done in the project management “vacuum.” Input from project stakeholders is absolutely essential and the only way for the project manager to properly frame the project and ensure that everyone’s expectations and assumptions are addressed. In short, risk is necessary to ensure the project produces a usable product.

In this post, I will outline a few simple strategies for drawing project stakeholders into the risk processes.

First, ensure that the project sponsor understands the value of project risk assessment and is supportive of the risk identification process. The project sponsor is the project’s executive level champion, who provides overall direction and ensures that the project is aligned with the organization’s goals. The project sponsor is typically influential at all levels within the organization and can provide needed leverage and support for core project activities. At the end of the day, unidentified or unmitigated risks, both positive and negative, will adversely impact the project and by extension the political capital of the project sponsor.

Second, when approaching the topic with stakeholders, ensure that any risks you, as the project manager, have initially identified are quantifiable and reasonably probable. This exercise is counterproductive if you try to engage management and stakeholders by presenting “shock value” risks – catastrophic in nature, but having an extremely low probability of occurrence.

Third, be mindful of key stakeholder time. If stakeholders are asked to attend multiple meetings to discuss the same topic, the project manger risks loosing their interest. Meetings to discuss risk and risk mitigation strategies should be few, succinct and include only key stakeholders. If implementing a new CRM platform, for example, it is not necessary to include all end users in a risk identification and mitigation planning meeting. While end users certainly have much to contribute to the risk process, much of their contribution can be managed using various survey techniques.

Fourth, document and distribute.Ensure that all key stakeholders have the opportunity to review and contribute through as many communication mediums as is possible. Ensure that everyone who contributes to the process is identified in the risk management plan.

Finally, keep the topic of risk active throughout the project. Risks change throughout the project – some risks are actualized, while others become a non-issue. New risks are identified.

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