Ignorance is Risk

We know Monday’s are probably not ideal for profound, philosophical questions but we must ask….

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  There’s likely not enough coffee to weigh in on that existential discussion, but it did make us wonder.  When it comes to work and life, if you don’t know the risks, is that risky?

In our opinion, the answer is an unequivocal, resounding yes. Identifying and mitigating risk is like a chess game.  Stay three steps ahead, be conscious of every possible move that could potentially end your game and overprepare for the worst-case scenario. But invariably, there will come a time when you didn’t calculate and prepare for every possible risk and the one aspect you overlooked halted the success of an entire implementation.

While you can’t always prepare for everything (you don’t know what you don’t know!). Here are some steps to make sure you’re prepared to respond to risk:

Identify the risks early on in your project.

The objective of risk identification is to identify all possible risks, not to eliminate risks from consideration or to develop solutions for mitigating risks – those tasks come later.  Here, this process is typically one of brainstorming.  Yes, you can check your files, databases and previous results.  But so much of risk identification is about tapping into people’s minds – their experiences, their opinions, etc.  It’s critical that your project teammates are active participants, so encourage open communication and trust.  Those are essential components to effective risk identification; without them, team members will be reluctant to raise their risk concerns in an open forum.

Communicate about risks

Be vigilant in your communication efforts.   Solicit open and honest input at team meetings to ensure that your team realizes the importance and impact that ‘risk’ will have on the project itself. Establish clear risk owners and communication protocols.  In fact, focus your communication efforts with the project sponsor or principal on the big risks so that there are no surprises to the boss or the client.

Consider opportunities as well as threats when assessing risks.

Yes, risks can be bad and they can derail your projects.  Fortunately, there’s a flip side.  Consider that there are also “opportunities” or positive risks that can provide a boost to your project or team. If facilitated well, the team might be able to identify a couple of opportunities with a high pay-off that may not require a big investment in time or resources. These will make your project work faster, operate better and be more profitable.

 

Photo Cred: Dane Rude