Project Management

The Risk of Not Properly Managing Risk

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

We have a risk management problem. This is not to say that we have a problem with the risks on our projects (although that is certainly a possibility). It is to say that we have a problem with managing them.

What we know about risk management is that it is important. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that it is the single most important activity a project manager can do in terms of optimizing the chance of a successful project. In fact, some studies have suggested that it is more critical than every other project management tool and approach combined. Suffice it to say is that risk management should be at the top of everyone’s mind. And yet, while many of us pay it lip service, it isn’t.

One of the significant aspects of my consulting work is auditing and evaluating projects, and conducting organizational project management assessments. I also do research, which often involves extensively exploring how organizations approach project management, and the impact that it has. I’ve even contributed to some of the studies that demonstrate just how important risk management is. I’ve assessed mediocre organizations, organizations that are striving to improve, those that are striving to excel and those that are pretty much at the top of their game. That’s led to some fascinating insights and perspectives about what organizations do, what works and …

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"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."

- Mark Twain