Risk… so what?

A central responsibility of any project manager is monitoring and controlling (to the extent possible) the outcomes of uncertainties and potential problems that will cross paths with your project.

Spotting a risk is not difficult for most people – especially if you’re a realist or pessimist. The challenge comes in getting the right stakeholders to take action to address the risk. To achieve this, we need to communicate with key stakeholders to first explain the risk, and second, to convince them that it is real enough to act on right now.

But, how do you effectively communicate risk in a way that is convincing? Isn’t it enough just to share all the information we, as a project manager, have and let our listeners gage all the potential issues that can derail the project? No, it’s not enough, and effective risk communication is difficult to master but essential if you ever want to get the necessary leadership support on your project.

A recent PM Network article (attached), discusses a few specific pointers in getting your risk message out effectively and in a way that leads to results.

  • Understand your stakeholders and their preferences – do they prefer written or verbal communication?
  • Censor yourself – be picky about the risks you choose to communicate vs. not (for example, choose risks that are clear, immediate, and can be acted on now)
  • Build credibility – utilize experts in the room to help validate the facts you are sharing
  • Be clear – in your communication, crisply communicate only the information that is critical for making a judgment call
  • Make risks relevant – use anecdotes and stories to explain why the risk is real and relevant to the stakeholder
  • Meet early – be proactive and communicate with stakeholders early and often; do not wait until it’s nearly too late to act

What are some effective actions you have you taken at your company to get leaders to listen and taken action when sharing a risk?

When is the last time you identified and communicated a risk, and what was the outcome of this? Was the risk addressed effectively, and if not, why not?

Risk Article – PM Network Magazine

Virtual Office Environment

Working virtually (from a home office) is no longer a rare situation. In fact, my entire team works virtually from various locations around the world. This is a paradigm shift regardless of the role you hold in your organization, because most of us are accustomed to leaving the house to go to work every morning.

Shifting to this new way of working was a natural progression for us over the last several years. Given we are in a new client implementations environment, it’s not difficult to understand the rationale for shifting to virtual work. Implementations require constant long hours, and the valuable team members who are willing to put in the long hours want the “time back” in their day in the form of an eliminated drive into work and back home, etc. The virtual work set-up is a great compromise between the needs of the company and the personal life needs of each of our team members.

As in other businesses, the bar is constantly raising for performing the work faster and more efficiently, and it’s difficult to find talented, hardworking people, let alone find them in an exact location. Without the existence of a talented group of people who are also flexible and committed to achieving the goals of each client implementation, we are more likely to fail.

In a recent PM Network edition (http://shar.es/Nnmu7), I read an interesting article highlighting a software company functioning entirely virtually. The article presented some unique perspectives on the benefits of virtual work environments:

  • They can be more efficient.
  • They help get the right people to the right places.
  • You tend to track  outcome-based results (rather than effort-based).

While there are numerous benefits, there are also challenges (from my personal experience). It is:

  • More difficult to form personal connections – technology such as video conference calls, instant messaging, etc don’t bridge the gap
  • More difficult to people and project manage – while everyone generally works the same hours, it’s not uncommon for someone to be unreachable when you need them

Not every role/industry can convert to a virtual environment. Industries like manufacturing will always be in-person. Other industries that have typically been in-the-office will soon become more virtual. For example, customer service center positions have begun to transform in terms of the ability to perform the job from the employee’s home. While rare now, this may begin to shift over the next decade, especially for companies looking to provide a more differentiated customer experience by employing the best resources.

Do you agree or disagree with the benefits of virtual environments listed above? Do you think the pendulum will swing back the other way, towards a more in-person work environment, as our business landscape continues to shift towards the knowledge sector?