What are some of the underlying causes of ineffective project risk management?

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What are some of the underlying causes of ineffective project risk management?



Since I first started to learn about project management, risk management has always fascinated me.

That characteristic of uniqueness which separates operations from project work introduces uncertainties which, in turn, generate risks. Most mega-project case studies give credit to an effective risk management approach as a key contributor towards their success. But in spite of this, risk management continues to be one of the weakest practiced knowledge areas in the PMBOK.

If eternal optimism is the prevailing mindset within a company, it can be difficult for risk owners to envision things not going according to plan. What has always intrigued me is how the same leadership teams which can be moderately effective at implementing operations or business risk capabilities will be so much weaker when it comes to project risk management.  A risk averse culture will take a long time to change for an overall organization, but a project manager should be able to influence it within the ecosystem of their projects.

Unhealthy levels of multitasking by project teams and stakeholders result in those practices perceived as unnecessary being jettisoned or being given lip service only. If a team barely has time to deliver the scope of their project, how can they or equally busy risk owners be expected to expend any real efforts on considering or responding to potentialities which may never be realized? And, if we combine this limited availability with "one size fits all" approaches to project risk management, it is no wonder that many teams will do the absolute bare minimum required to meet onerous governance requirements.

If team members and other stakeholders don't know what effective project risk management looks like, how can they be expected to improve? If there are no coaches to help teams improve their capabilities, improvements in risk management will rarely happen organically. Competent risk management requires exceptional interpersonal skills in addition to some basic technical skills, so hands-on practice with feedback from seasoned practitioners is needed to improve.

Finally, there might not be a realization of the positive correlation between effective risk management and successful project outcomes. In the absence of supporting internal empirical data or strong pressure from the outside to create a valid sense of urgency, senior leaders and project teams will be unwilling to sustainably invest in the required behavior and practice changes.

Providing practitioners with risk management training or evolving project delivery standards might help in some small way, but real improvements will only come when these root causes are addressed.

Posted on: September 15, 2019 10:50 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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I agree with you in the subject , several company's ignore the risk of their decisions and don't bother to make risk identification or risk analisys in a effective way, even when we point out these flaws they tend to ignore these alerts. Perhaps, I like a former military that was accustomed to elaborate risk plans, contingency and emergency plans for different scenarios be more sensitive to this problem. Great Article , thanks for sharing.

Interesting and Informative Post. Thanks for sharing it.

Yes , Root Cause analysis is important to know how to get to the true underlying cause of the issue, so you can prevent it from reoccurring in the future.

Great insights. I like the messaging on the challenges with the team's ability to navigate effective risk management and coaching through feedback. Also with the correlation of risk management and project outcomes. Thanks, Kiron.

I agree with you that there is need for more thorough risk management training to PMs

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