Do you and your team members lose track of the things you discussed in your project meetings? Who was to complete that action item? Who owns that risk? What did we decide to do? Sound familiar? Let's talk about how to master meeting minutes.
When I published my blog post entitled Four Meeting Problems, I received several questions about recording minutes. Questions included:
Allow me to share a few tips. I am reminded of George Orwell's comment: "Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." For both newbies as well as experienced project managers, it is good to get back to the basics.
Changes in project risks are inevitable. As a project progresses, the probability and impact of current risks change, new risks emerge, and residual risks may increase or decrease. What tools and techniques can project managers use for controlling risks and getting the results they are looking for?
Allow me to introduce you to two project managers—Tom and Susan. Tom started his project with a risk identification exercise with several stakeholders resulting in a list of 77 risks. He entered these risks into an Excel spreadsheet and stored the file in his project repository (and never looked at it again).
Susan, on the other hand, facilitated an early risk identification workshop. She periodically met with her team to review current risks and used additional techniques to identify new risks. In these risk review sessions, the team discussed the effectiveness of the risk responses and the risk management processes.
Which team do you think had the greatest chance of meeting their project objectives? Yes, Susan’s team wins the day, hands down.
Let’s look at six tools and techniques recommended in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) 5th Edition for controlling risks.
PMBOK 6th Edition
The PMBOK 6th Edition changed the process name of "Control Risks" to "Monitor Risks."
"Monitor Risks is the process of monitoring the implementation of agreed-upon risk response plans, tracking identified risks, identifying and analyzing new risks, and evaluating risk process effectiveness throughout the project."
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Risk reassessments involve the following activities:
Project teams may have defined risk responses. The question is—“Are the responses effective?” Project managers facilitate risk audits to examine the effectiveness of the risk responses and to determine whether changes are required. The team also examines the processes to identify, evaluate, respond to, and control risks.
As with many control processes, we now look for variances between the schedule and cost baselines and the actual results. When we the variances are increasing, there is increased uncertainty and risk. Watch the trends and respond before the situation gets out of hand.
Imagine that you are working on a software development project and that the functional requirements have been developed. You’ve planned to deliver functions at a point in time—at the end of the fourth sprint, at the end of phase 1, or a milestone. The technical performance measurement is a measurement of the technical accomplishments.
During the cost planning, the contingency and management reserves are added to the project budget as needed. As risks occur, the reserves may decrease. Depending on how your organization handles reserves and your risk management plan, project managers may request more reserves when inadequate.
Project managers should be deliberate risk managers. Engage your team members and appropriate stakeholders in meetings to facilitate the risk management processes. For these meetings, be sure to:
Don’t be like Tom who started his risk management with a bang and quickly fizzled. The best project managers identify, evaluate, and respond to risks. And they regularly perform the control activities to keep the project healthy.
Have you ever endured a project meeting where you spent hours evaluating risks? Afterward, team members walked down the hall saying, “What a waste of time! Now I can get back to the real work.” Today, let’s discuss the use of qualitative risk analysis to get you back on track.
What causes this frustration? First, the evaluation process may not fit the project – too complex for simple projects or deficient for large, complex projects. Second, the process may not fit the maturity level of the project team. Third, team members view the process as burdensome with little value.
Risk evaluation is the process to determine the significance of each risk. There are two ways to evaluate risks:
You cannot respond to all risks, neither should you. Prioritization is a way to deal with competing demands. This aids in determining where you will spend your limited time and effort.
We evaluate in order:
If you say the word “risk” to ten people, each person may think of something different— insurance, threats, investments, bets, or potential loss. As we manage project teams, it's critical that you and your team members have a common understanding of what project risk means. Otherwise, people will be confused by your risk management efforts.
It is no wonder that there is so much confusion about the meaning of risk. Many credible sources provide conflicting definitions. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines risk as “the possibility of loss or injury: peril.”
Risk management standards, guides, and methodologies define risk in many different ways. Some include the possibility of positive risks or opportunities; others do not.
Risk - an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives. —PMBOK 6th Edition
As projects start, project managers should work with the project sponsor and key stakeholders to clarify the project objectives or goals. Once the objectives are clear, share how risk management can help to achieve the objectives. Furthermore, provide concrete examples that are relevant to the project at hand.
Next, agree on a definition for project risk. I suggest the risk definition from the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).
So, here is the PMBOK definition of risk - an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives (such as scope, schedule, cost, and quality). Let’s break down this definition of risk:
Some people argue that including positive effects in the definition creates confusion. If you decide to leave out the positive effects in the definition, consider how you and your team can identify and seize significant opportunities.
The important thing is to discuss and get agreement with your team about how to define risk. Include the definition in your Risk Management Plan. Clear communication will position your team for greater achievement.
Project managers constantly think about risks, both threats and opportunities. What if the requirements are late? What if the testing environment becomes unstable? How can we exploit the design skills of our developers? Let’s consider a simple but powerful tool to capture and manage your risks—the Risk Register.
The Risk Register is simply a list of risk-related information including but not limited to:
The Risk Register may be created in a spreadsheet, database, risk management tool, SharePoint, or a project management information system. Make sure that the Risk Register is visible and easy to access by your project team members.
The initial risk information is entered when identifying risks in the planning process. For example, project managers may capture initial risks while developing the communications plan or the project schedule. The initial risk information may include the risks, causes, triggers, categories, potential risk owners, and potential risk responses.
As you evaluate your risk in the planning process, you should assign risk ratings for probability and impact and calculate the risk scores.
Next, validate risk owners and have risk owners complete response plans.
Lastly, review and update your risks during your team meetings. Add emerging risks. Other reasons for updating the risk register include change requests, project re-planning, or project recovery.
Risk Register Template
The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Why? Individuals, teams, and organizations lack the healthy habits of identifying and managing the uncertainty that surrounds their world. Today, let's look at a step-by-step process to improve your strategic planning, analysis, and alignment with a particular focus on risk management.
What I found over the years is the most important thing is for a team to come together over a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy for achieving that vision, and then a relentless implementation plan. —Alan Mulally
Strategic risk management is a process for identifying, analyzing, and managing risks most critical to the achievement of your goals. While many individuals, groups, or organizations perform risk management informally, a more structured approach has its benefits. For instance, strategic risk management can help you invest your precious time, money, resources and energy where it counts most.
PMI Talent Triangle
The Project Management Institute says, "The ideal skill set (for a project manager) is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise." —PMI Talent Triangle
Organizations are looking for project managers who can manage projects. Additionally, they want individuals who can help define the organization's strategies and ensure that the projects are aligned with the enterprise goals.
During the project initiation process, a project charter should be completed. The project goals should align and support the achievement of the enterprise goals. Furthermore, the Project Steering Committee can help by defining and using project selection criteria to approve projects that fit the criteria, ensuring better alignment to the organization's goals.
Want to know more? Check out my online course: The What, Why, & How of Powerful Project Charters.
Strategic risk management may be applied to enterprise, portfolio, program, and project levels of an organization.
So, here is a step-by-step process to help you improve your strategic planning, analysis, and alignment.
In the broadest sense, strategic risk management starts at an enterprise level. Even if your organization does not have an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Program, you can apply this process to improve your portfolio and program risk management. Lastly, if you only manage projects, consider this process as the context for your projects. Do you understand how your projects align with the organizational vision, mission, values, and goals?
You may be thinking—interesting article. But I want you to be more than interested. I challenge you to take action, particularly if you are an enterprise, portfolio, or program manager. Develop your strategic plan, identify your risks, and start managing those risks. Most importantly, add value by keeping your eye on the achievement of your goals.
Oh, what a year! Thank you for being a part of the Project Risk Coach Community. I hope you have found my articles practical and helpful. In this article, I'm sharing my most popular blog posts of 2018.
So, just how many of you came to the Project Risk Coach website in 2018?
One of my 2018 goals was to have 75,000 people visit the Project Risk Coach website. Thanks to you, I had more than 113,000. Visitors spent an average of 4 minutes and 47 seconds per visit.
Where were the visitors from? Here were the top countries:
You may have noticed that I wrote more about project risk management than ever with a sprinkling of general project management articles. Hopefully, you've gained further insights for identifying, evaluating, responding to and controlling your risks.
I am grateful that the demand for my consulting services, particularly in the P&C insurance industry, has been great in 2018. In 2019, I will be creating more online courses with a focus on project risk management and helping individuals prepare for the PMI-RMP Exam.
I also plan to speak and conduct workshops at a few PMI Chapters in 2019
I see my primary audience as practicing project managers in the United States with a college education. Most are between the ages of 30 and 60 and most work in the financial industry.
Irrespective of where you live or what you do, I hope you will find the Project Risk Coach as a go-to resource for project management tips, tools, and techniques.
Please help me help YOU. It is my sincere desire to provide greater value to you in 2019. Click here to complete a quick survey.
Occasionally, someone will ask me for risk management tips. I think my first answer surprises individuals—write clear goals. Yes, good risk management always starts with clear goals. In today's article, I will give you a simple method to write clear goals every time.
The Crow and the Pitcher is one of Aesop’s Fables. In the story, a thirsty crow discovers a pitcher with water at the bottom, beyond the reach of its beak. The crow did not have sufficient strength to push the pitcher over. He took a different approach. The bird dropped pebbles one by one in the pitcher until the water level rose to the top of the pitcher, allowing the crow to drink.
The crow had a clear goal. Though there were obstacles, the crow creatively solved the problem and achieved his goal. In risk management, we ask ourselves—what may help or hinder our ability to achieve our goals.
“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses those skills to accomplish his goals.” -Larry Byrd
Allow me to provide a simple but powerful formula for writing goals. What I am about to share will work for personal goals, enterprise goals, department goals, team goals, or any goal. Furthermore, it works for long-term goals, intermediate-term goals, and short-term goals.
Using this goal formula, you will write specific, measurable goals every time. You will find writing goals easier. Let's start with the formula.
Verb -> Focus -> Target -> Deadline
Example: Increase new members 5% by December 31, 20xx.
Writing goals is an iterative process. Zig Ziglar said, "Don't become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific." Write your goals again and again, each time refining and clarifying your thoughts. Revisit them regularly to monitor your progress.
Do you find yourself working overtime, trying to deal with unexpected disruptions? Some negative events that you thought might happen has now occurred. And it's costing you more time and energy than you thought possible. Overwhelmed? Well, let's talk about project risks and issues, the differences, and why it's so important to manage risks.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines risk as, “An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives.”
Let's examine a risk statement and underscore some key attributes of risks. Here's a risk statement:
Because the project team failed to review the requirements with the users, the project team may not meet the user's needs, resulting in unsatisfied users.
Notice the risk: project team may not meet the user's needs. Think of risk as events or conditions that might happen in the future.
So, how does an issue differ from a risk? Where a risk might happen, an issue has happened. When a threat occurs, it becomes an issue or problem. By the way, when an opportunity occurs, it becomes a benefit.
Are we splitting hairs? The distinction between risks and issues matters for a few reasons.
Risk vs. Issue Debate
Some project managers and risk managers are not convinced that the differentiation between risk and issue adds any value. Even though the risk has occurred (i.e. it is now an issue in terms of the differentiation) there is still uncertainty regarding the impact and the objectives that will be impacted.
While we are on this topic, let's clarify two other terms—assumptions and constraints.
Have you ever conducted a project brainstorming session and found yourself drowning in a cloud of ideas? Not a bad thing, but how can we make sense of the ideas? Well, let's see how to create a project affinity map to sort your ideas. As a bonus, we'll also look at Dot Voting, a simple and quick way to prioritize your ideas.
An affinity map is a tool that can be used to organize ideas into groups based on their natural relationships. The ideas commonly come from a brainstorming session. So, how do project managers actually use this tool?
For instance, a project manager may ask a project team to identify reasons why a project is behind schedule. Imagine that the team identifies fifteen reasons. Next, the project manager asks the team to sort the ideas into groups. The team discovers that the reasons fall into the following groups: processes, people, product, and technology. This is a great way to create a Cause and Effect Diagram.
There are countless ways to use a project affinity map after brainstorming. Here are some examples. Identify and sort:
So, what steps do we take to create an affinity diagram? Let's walk through the process.
When you complete the exercise, the team should have a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the issues. Sometimes the team may need additional help to identify the most significant items. Let’s look at another simple tool to prioritize the items.
Cling On Sheets
Have you ever used Cling On Sheets? They work like a whiteboard, but the nice thing is that you can put them anywhere on a dry wall and then move them as needed. After my brainstorming sessions, I take them back to my desk so I can complete my documentation and minutes.
The Affinity Map and Dot Voting provide a powerful one-two punch. You and your team will be able to sort and prioritize the ideas in a quick and organized manner. Give it a try!
Become a more effective project risk manager.