Risks get logged on our spreadsheets or in our tools, but it’s often the identification part that people find difficult.
Below are 5 causes of risk. You can use these as a jumping off point for your own risk identification. What would happen on your project if one of these causes created a situation for you?
1. Equipment failure
On projects in the past, we’ve had the local council cut through power lines while doing work digging up the road outside one of our locations.
We’ve had internet outages. We’ve had component failure. And once one of my colleagues had their laptop stolen from out of the back of their car – not exactly a failure, but it caused the same kind of situation. If you’ve ever lost a piece of tech you’ll know the headache that comes with getting a new one and all the governance paperwork to fill in too.
What risks could you have on your project around equipment failure?
2. Planning errors
Incorrect estimates, incorrect assumptions… these all lead to the potential for your plans to be wrong.
Even missing out someone’s annual leave or scheduling over a bank holiday because you didn’t have it on your calendar can cause a delay.
You might have risks related to the accuracy of your planning and scheduling.
3. People problems
A lot of project risks are created by people! For example, in one situation I heard of, a project team hired the wrong person for the job. The candidate said they could do the work, it sounded like they could do the work and when they showed up, they couldn’t.
Other risks could be the risk of someone not turning up (as has just happened in our house with contractors due to fit the new floor), refusing to do the work, changing their daily rate or is otherwise demonstrating difficult behaviour.
Even if you can resolve the problem, sorting out challenges like this takes time and energy, and often we don’t have much of that on projects.
What people-related risks can you foresee on your project, and what can you do about them?
4. Watermelon projects
Another risk is that people don’t report the true status to you so you end up with a watermelon project: green on the outside and red in the middle.
You can deal with that risk by making sure you have processes for adequate reporting and are able to understand the current situation. If you don’t have visibility, you can’t control the project.
Could one or more strands of your project be at risk of going watermelon?
Finally – and this can happen on any project – miscommunication. Team members do things wrong because they don’t understand or they haven’t had complete instructions.
In theory, this one should be easy enough to resolve, so much so that you might not even think it is worth putting on the risk register at all. However, if you work with a cross-cultural team, different time zones or remote teams then it is probably a higher risk factor for you.
Would your project be at risk of communication challenges?