Do you know the risks of your upcoming project? What potential issues do you see arising?
Projects are difficult initiatives haunted by unknowns, especially innovation projects. I am not naïve to think that a few conversations towards the beginning of your project will guarantee success. Never mind the unknowns, even with a solid mitigation strategy some of those identified risks will become realized problems to your project. Now is the time to kick in an action plan, to minimize the effects on your project and bring the issue to closure.
Once an issue occurs, here are a few things you should be doing to bring it to closure:
Analysis – What is it that actually happened? Who/What has been effected? Was this an identified risk and if so, what was done already to mitigate it? Why?
Regroup as a team – Get the team together (as applicable) and give a recap of the issue, to make sure everyone is on the same page. Then ask for suggestions to resolve and consider new risks from the potential resolution.
Respond & Implement – Once the resolution has been agreed upon, communicate that plan to your team & the customer, then act on the plan. Again, make sure you have an owner of the task(s).
Update – Once the issue has been resolved, circle back with the appropriate parties to confirm the issue has been resolved and new mitigation strategies to prevent a recurrence of the issue.
What could go wrong?
What could delay you from completing your task? Do we have any challenges ahead of us (other projects, vacation, illness etc)? Do we rely on a vendor or outside element for our team to complete? Is anything happening in the market or company that could affect the project? What if? What if? What if?
What impact will this have?
If this ‘What if?’ actually happens what would it do to the project? Would it delay the project? Would it cost more? Would it reduce quality? The key to this is quantifying the statement the best you can. X days delay, % increase in cost, failure rates, etc.
What can be done to mitigate the risk?
Can delaying the project increase the quality? Can partnering with a different vendor reduce costs? Can Marketing run an awareness campaign to improve adoption? What steps can be taken to get ahead of the risk and PREVENT it from occurring.
Who owns the prevention loss plan?
Once you have identified the risk and a prevention plan, the team must know who the person is that is responsible for executing that plan. Without an lead, the plan is pointless, not worth the paper/file it is written on.
The suggestions above should be applied according to your specific circumstances. You may not have the time or need to gather the team; rather a quick decision can be made via a phone call. What is constant across both Risk and Issue Management are the needs to actually do it and also to document it!
Create a very simple log, stating risk and issues, to which you review during your project meetings. This logs should be a live documents, being monitored, updated, and discussed throughout the project. A bi-weekly meeting, depending on the length of the project works great to ensure things are flowing cohesively.
Effectively managing risks and issues is crucial to your career as a project manager. At some point, you are going to lead a project that comes off the rails and when the boss starts asking questions, you will be happy you put this into place. Being able to show the risk plan, with mitigation strategies, and how you have addressed other issues will keep you in their good graces.
You don’t have to be perfect, but you must prove you did everything you could to lead the team to success!