Project Management

A Better Risk Register

Minnesota Chapter

Andrea Brockmeier is the Director of Project Management at Watermark Learning. She has 20+ years of experience in project management practice and training.

A risk register that simply lists risks without addressing their consequences is at risk of being ignored. A more effective risk register explains why we should be concerned about the risks; it clearly communicates the risk events and what their impact would be. In short, it answers the "so what" question.

Like most everything in project management, the risk register is really about communication. A risk register that doesn’t help the reader understand the consequence of the risk isn’t communicating much. Registers that identify the “so what?” factor are more likely to be understood and less likely to be forgotten.

Risk registers often include risks with little or no indication as to the consequence. Take a look at the register below, for example:

These are clearly articulated as risk events, so that’s good.  But if I hadn’t been in the risk identification session when these got added to the register, I’m left with a lot of questions, most notably “So what?” 

Let’s take the first one, Scheduling classes on new site fails…when going live. And? It looks like it would be a pretty bad thing, but why?  Or what about Doug leaving?  Who is Doug and why do I care if he leaves? 

A solid risk register tells the reader why they should be concerned about the events. …

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I hope if dogs ever take over the world, and they choose a king, they don't just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some good ideas.

- Jack Handey