Project Management

Standardising the Language of Risk [Video]

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from

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Standardising the language of risk

How do you talk about risk? Do you talk about negative and positive risk, or threats and opportunities?

And do your colleagues use the same terminology? As a project manager, we need to be able to have conversations about risk – and make sure that the people we are talking to understand what we are talking about! That can be hard to do if you don’t have a standard risk language – terminology that everyone in the business understands.

In this video I talk about the benefits of standardising the way you and your team talk about risk because. With standard vocab you can gain better buy in for your risk management actions because people get what you want to do.

It also allows for comparability between risks between projects, programmes, portfolio and the enterprise level. By all using the same definition of ‘major’ to describe a risk assessment, for example, you ensure that everyone understands the same thing.

This video talks about how to have a conversation about standardisation, and what you can do as a project manager even if you think you aren’t in a position to influence corporate standards on risk.

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Posted on: January 06, 2020 08:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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Dear Elizabeth
Interesting reflection on the topic
Thanks for sharing

Creating an Organizational Risk Management standard is a project that, depending on the size of the organization, can be very challenging.
Who do you suggest to be the sponsor?

Implementing the created standard is another equally challenging project.

Dear Elizabeth
I was wondering if your videos target project managers (men women) or women project managers :-) :-)

@Luis. My blog (outside of the one on this site) is called A Girl's Guide to Project Management. I'm the Girl. It's my Guide to the world of PM. My personal experience aligns most closely to female PMs because I am one, but I don't specifically seek to NOT target male PMs.

Dear Elizabeth
Since I read what you write and listen carefully to your videos and by ":-)", my comment was just a joke.


Nice points uniform language is facilitating.

Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth. Appreciated this!

I can relate to this as many of my projects draw participants (PMO staff, owner's representative, consultants and other stakeholders) from a former life - earlier projects, operations, procurement, finance. Many may have project experience but with different process and structures. When you raise the subject of risk analysis and management most can relate however tend to apply their specific experience which can lead to early misunderstandings and delays. My approach is to have a pre-discussion (before we get into identification and analysis) and explore this very real problem. I follow this up with a draft project Risk Management Plan based on my knowledge and experience, and where possible tie-in to the corporate approach to risk. The Plan includes details on term definition, roles and responsibilities and standard processes. On the second work shop we see how the draft Plan could be improved to suit project-specific constraints and conditions as well as participant input.
With the Plan finalized we can then go on with the job of identifying, analysis, quantifying, and developing response measures, monitoring and reporting.

I think that in organization, we must create a standard for risks management because if we have the same language, it will be very easy for us to control the risks not only for the organization but for the projects. Risks management must be an attitude that we must have in any environments.
It's not for female only (laughing) but for everybody in our organization. Perhaps we should have a department of Risks management in our PMO (not only financials risks).

Thank you for sharing.

Thank for sharing Dear Elisabeth

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