Contributed by: Vanessa A. Richardson, RMP, Cygnal Consulting

“We have spent over 70% of our project’s budget. We are two months behind, and I am afraid my project team doesn’t know what it will really cost to complete or when they’ll finish. Can you help?”

I’m often asked to come in after a project is in crisis. Most organizations believe they are already performing risk management. But is it working and can it really help?

Here is a list of five questions to which every organization should be able to confidently answer “Yes”.

1. Has the team identified and documented risks to project objectives?

Risks that are recycled from other projects or not documented Do Not Count.

2. Does the risk register reflect up-to-date information on all of the following:

– Defined risk event,
– One point of contact for each risk,
– Cause or source of the risk event,
– Potential probability and severity for each risk

– A deliberate decision to avoid, mitigate, share, or accept risks, and
– Preventative and responsive measures for risks to be managed?

3. Do project team members understand their roles and/or responsibilities for managing identified risks?

If not, there will be missed opportunities, wasted time, and unrecoverable dollars – all while employees are doing their best to be successful. That spells frustrated project teams and unhappy stakeholders.

4. Do projects regularly communicate / report on what lies ahead?

Good project managers can put out fires. Great project managers can tell you what fires may be likely and how they have prepared the playing field to deal with them. They allocate and justify contingency dollars. Top performers report on what lies ahead, not just what has happened.

5. Does senior management trust project reporting and support project decision making?

With consistent messaging from one month to the next, minimal surprises, and project leaders basing decisions on the organization’s priorities, senior management can confidently rely on the information and alternatives their projects report.

So will it help your projects?

As you read through, ask yourself the flip question – would your organization benefit from being able to answer “yes” to these questions? Would fewer surprises every month gain support throughout the organization for the project funding or decisions? When performed well, risk management maximizes the value and success of your projects, unites teams, spurs innovation, gathers support for project decisions, and yes, it saves time and money.