How to Be a Project Risk Management Evangelist

The Project Management Institute says, "high-performing companies manage risk in conjunction with projects and programs far more often than low performers do." How can you help your company manage risks and become a high performer? Let's look at ways to become a project risk management evangelist.

individual speaking to a team

The lack of senior management support is one of the primary barriers to effective organizational risk management. Additionally, I believe it is also a major constraint to effective project risk management.


How can project sponsors and project managers influence senior leaders to adopt risk management and reduce the barrier to risk management? Allow me to share seven ways.


7 Ways to Be a Project Risk Management Evangelist

1

Identify Leaders and Decision Makers

Want to see your organization become a high-performer? It starts with your senior leaders adopting a risk management attitude. Who are the top leaders that you need to influence? Create a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix.

2

Educate Key Stakeholders

Next, educate your leaders. Help them understand how to use risk management to get better results.


Don't have access to the senior leaders? Who do you know that does? Who can you influence that might influence the senior leaders?


Another way to influence is from the bottom up, within your sphere of influence. Use risk management to deliver successful projects. People at higher levels will start to question how you are doing it?

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My Top 10 Project Risk Management Blog Posts of 2019

Are you a better project manager today than you were a year ago? I hope my blog has boosted your knowledge and application. In case you missed some of my blog posts, I'm sharing my most popular project risk management posts of 2019.

So, just how many of you came to the Project Risk Coach website in 2019? 

Year

Visitors

2019

220,856

2018

113,206

2017

57,560

2016

42,000

2015

33,000

One of my 2019 goals was to help 180,000 website visitors. Thanks to you, I had more than 220,000. Visitors spent an average of 4 minutes and 47 seconds per visit. 

Where were the visitors from? The top countries included:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. India
  4. The United Kingdom
  5. Canada

Top 10 Project Risk Management Articles of 2019

You may have noticed that I wrote more about project risk management than ever with a sprinkling of project management articles. Risks derail our projects. My aim has been to make project risk management easy to understand and practical to apply, putting you in the driver's seat of your projects.

Here were the top blog posts:

  1. 7 Ways to Identify Risks
  2. Evaluating Risks Using Quantitative Risk Analysis
  3. 6 Tools and Techniques for Controlling Risks
  4. How to Actually Identify Project Risks
  5. How to Identify Scope Risks
  6. How to Develop a Quality Management Plan
  7. How to Develop a Human Resource Management Plan
  8. How to Actually Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis
  9. The What, Why, & How of Project Requirements
  10. 10 Ways to Improve Project Presentations

"Risks derail our projects. My aim has been to make project risk management easy to understand and practical to apply, putting you in the driver's seat of your projects."

- Harry Hall, PMP, PMI-RMP -

PMI Chapters

Thanks to the Palmetto PMI Chapter for allowing me to speak at their 2019 Palmetto Symposium. Additionally, thanks to the Columbus PMI Chapter for allowing me to facilitate the How to Categorize, Assess, & Prioritize Project Risks Workshop.

2020 Project Risk Coach Plans

In 2020,  I will be creating more online courses and YouTube videos with a focus on project risk management and helping individuals prepare for the PMI-RMP Exam.

I also plan to conduct more project risk management workshops for PMI Chapters in 2020. Additionally, I hope to speak at a few more symposiums and chapter meetings. Let me know if you are interested

I've recently started the PMI-RMP for U.S. Project Managers LinkedIn Group. This group is for project managers LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES who have obtained or seeking to obtain the PMI-RMP Credential. Additionally, you will learn to apply project risk management in a balanced and practical manner.

My primary audience includes project managers in the United States with a college education. Most are between the ages of 40 and 70 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 risk management tips, tools, and techniques.

What is Project Risk?

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.

what is project risk?

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® Guide – Sixth Edition

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The Relationship Between Project Risk Management and Project Management

Project management is "the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project objectives" (PMBOK®—6th Edition). So, how does project risk management fit in the world of project management?

project risk management image

Hand in Glove Relationship

Project risk management fits in project management like a hand in glove. Project managers can use it to achieve their project objectives and goals. How?

Good risk management always starts with clear project objectives and goals. That is to say, project managers who manage risks without project objectives as the basis are simply playing games. There is an appearance of risk management but these individuals are simply going through the motions.

Good risk management always starts with clear project objectives and goals. —Harry Hall

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10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Project Meetings

I often hear people say, “Our company has too many meetings. The meetings last too long and they are woefully mismanaged.” And yet, meetings can be an indispensable tool for accomplishing work.  Let’s look at 10 ways to improve project meetings and achieve greater results.

revitalize your project meetings

10 Project Meeting Boosters

1. Meet somewhere new. One simple but effective way to reinvigorate your meetings is to meet in a new location. What about meeting at an offsite location or meeting outside on a nice day? Variety is the spice of life.

2. Meet at a different time. You have a recurring meeting where you’ve been meeting from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday for the last year. How about moving the meeting to Tuesday morning from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., schedules permitting, to leverage greater energy in the mornings.

3. Use a different facilitation technique. A bad habit is using the round-robin every meeting. You start with the person on your left and you rotate from one person to another for updates. Use a different technique such as a whiteboard for example. Ask for the most significant limiting factors and capture them on the whiteboard.

4. Rotate meeting roles. For meetings with ten or more people, I recommend that you assign meeting roles—facilitator, scribe, time-keeper, and gatekeeper, to name a few. In addition, consider rotating the roles allowing different people to lead in different capacities. This gives everyone a greater appreciation for each role.

5. Invite someone new to the meeting. Perhaps you and the team have been trying to resolve a problem and you’ve met three times. Feeling stagnant? Invite another subject matter expert to provide a different perspective?

6. Undertake a team-building exercise. Wise leaders know how and when to inject team-building exercises. Facilitate a problem-solving exercise, develop a work breakdown structure, or identify ways to improve project communication.

7. Develop or revive your ground rules. Perhaps your team has developed some bad meeting habits—getting off track, showing up late, or reading emails on their smartphones. Ask your team to identify ground rules for future meetings that can drive better performance.

8. Do more planning and problem-solving. One big meeting problem is a lack of engagement. Participants are passive—brains are turned off. Rather than using meetings to report status, use the time to plan, to solve problems, and to innovate.

9. Stand up or walk for a meeting. Many agile teams perform daily stand-up meetings, fifteen minutes in length, to discuss: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any impediments in your way? Alternatively, try a walking meeting (notify everyone in advance) where you discuss these questions.

10. Monitor energy levels. I’m not a fan of all-day meetings, but sometimes, they are necessary. Recognize that energy levels will likely diminish in the afternoon. What can you do to improve energy throughout the day? Provide water (perhaps coffee) and healthy snacks. Take a periodic stretch break. Additionally, break up into groups to discuss a topic or problem—have someone from each group share their group’s thoughts. Keep things moving.

It’s Your Turn To Revitalize Your Project Meetings

Good leaders shape their team cultures. Think about your teams. What changes would you like to see in their attitudes and behaviors? Implement one or two of the ideas in this article. Evaluate whether the team is getting more done. Furthermore, never let your meetings stay in a rut. Periodically, try something new!

What are the Project Meeting Roles?

Project meetings can be maddening. Some people come unprepared. Others get off track. And how about those that constantly check email. Let's improve your meetings through project meeting roles.

project meeting

Team members leave meetings with no decisions, lacking direction, and not knowing what to expect next. Power-hungry individuals dominate the discussions. The meek say nothing.

Meetings can be an absolute waste of time and money.

How can we better manage our meetings and get results? Assign meeting roles that combat common meeting problems. 

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Four Project Meeting Problems – Which Ones Do You Want to Overcome?

Friends, have you experienced wasteful project meetings lately? Although meetings are a fundamental communication tool, many meetings fail to achieve real results. Let’s look at four common project meeting problems: unclear purpose, topic hopping, indecision, and unclear direction.

people in a meeting

Four Project Meeting Problems

1

Unclear Purpose

Far too often, people attend meetings with no idea of why the meeting was called. You can bet the meeting will wander aimlessly without clear objectives.


The meeting facilitator should specify the purpose in the agenda. For example: “To select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.”


Next, start your meetings by stating the purpose of the meeting. For example: “The purpose of this meeting is to select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.” 


Additionally, review the agenda topics and ground rules. Ask if there are any questions or any additional agenda items.


These steps help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the purpose, topics, and desired conduct.

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7 Ways to Improve Project Quality

In this article, I will share how to improve project quality. And when we improve quality, we reduce rework and adverse impacts to our project schedules and budgets. Additionally, we actually meet the needs of our customers and end users.

picture of people working on quality

Project Quality Mistakes and Solutions

Project managers focus on the scope, the schedule, and the cost. However, many fail to give equal consideration to quality. Allow me to share some common mistakes. Furthermore, I will share practical steps to solve these issues. 

1. Failure to define quality. The term ‘quality’ is ambiguous. It means different things to different people. To be sure, it's difficult if not impossible to improve something that is vague and subjective.

The PMBOK Guide – Sixth Edition defines quality as, “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements.”

Think in terms of understanding and meeting your stakeholder's expectations. If we partially meet their requirements, we will have some unhappy campers.

Solution: Define the term 'quality' so that your team members understand what it is and how to improve it.

Here's another tip: Define quality fit criteria—a quantification of a requirement that demonstrates the standard the product must reach.

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Why Stakeholder Analysis is Important

Project stakeholders are individuals, groups, and organizations that may affect or be affected by your projects. It's critical to understand how people inside and outside your organization may impact your projects. In this post, we will explore why stakeholder analysis is important. Furthermore, I'll provide you with two tools for quick assessments.

picture of project stakeholders in a meeting

Why Analyze Project Stakeholders

Some project managers say they don't have enough time to analyze the stakeholders. That's a mistake!

So, why is it important? The short answer – to determine how to best invest your time and energy.

Stakeholders are NOT the same. Their power, interest, influence, expectations, and impact differ greatly. Consequently, it's important to identify the most influential stakeholders.

Once the key stakeholders are determined, it's time to develop a stakeholder engagement plan and influence them at the right times. Why? To navigate stakeholder-related threats. Furthermore, you can develop the most critical relationships. 

Allow me to introduce you to two powerful tools: the stakeholder classification grids and the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix.

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10 Ways to Engage Project Stakeholders

Do you have a stakeholder engagement plan? Have you stopped to think about the diverse needs of your stakeholders? Which stakeholders have the most power and influence? When and how will you engage these people?

Project Stakeholders

What is a Stakeholder Engagement Plan?

The stakeholder engagement plan is "a component of the project management plan that identifies the strategies and actions required to promote productive involvement of stakeholders in project or program decision making and execution (PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition, Page 723)."

Stakeholder engagement includes ways to attract and involve individuals, groups, and organizations who may be affected by a project or may affect the project.

Stakeholder Engagement Plan. A component of the project management plan that identifies the strategies and actions required to promote productive involvement of stakeholders in project or program decision making and execution.

– PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition –

Let’s look at some practical ways that you can better engage and influence your project stakeholders at the right times in your project lifecycle.

10 Ways to Engage Project Stakeholders

  1. Identify stakeholders early. You can’t engage stakeholders until you know who they are. As you are initiating your projects, start identifying your stakeholders. Additionally, create a project stakeholder register.
  2. Get stakeholders talking to one another. I invite key stakeholders to my initial project meetings as we are developing the project charter. I want to surface and resolve conflicts as soon as possible.
  3. Seek to understand before being understood. Steven Covey shared this principle years ago. It still holds true. Furthermore, people want to know that you really want to hear their perspective first.
  4. Listen, really listen. Part of understanding is making time to sit face-to-face, when possible, and truly listen. Ask probing questions.
  5. Lead with integrity. Meaningful engagement requires trust. Say what you mean; mean what you say. And then do what you said you would do.
  6. Engage your stakeholders in the estimates. Ask the people that will do the work for estimates. And help stakeholders to understand that there is greater uncertainty in the early estimates. Commit to providing refined estimates as your projects progress.
  7. Work WITH your team. The best project managers work with their stakeholders to break down their projects into deliverables and tasks. This helps everyone to have a better understanding of the project. Furthermore, stakeholders will more likely support a plan that they helped create.
  8. Manage expectations. Each of your stakeholders has expectations, sometimes false expectations. Working with your team will clarify many of these aspects of the project.
  9. Say thank you. The project managers I enjoy most know two simple words—thank you. When team members and other stakeholders complete activities, respond to emails and voicemails, make you aware of things you didn’t know, respond with thanks.
  10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ninety percent of a project manager’s job is communication. Develop and maintain a communications plan. Creative project managers minimize a potential communications breakdown by communicating through a variety of channels, not one or two.

Are You Actually Influencing Your Project Stakeholders?

I recently spoke with a project manager who works in a Project Management Office (PMO). Susan told me how people resist project management in her organization, a story that I've heard countless times.

When I asked, "What are you doing to get support and buy-in?" With a puzzled look, Susan said, "It's always been that way and I doubt it will ever change."

Whether you are leading a PMO, a program, or a challenging project, you may have resigned yourself and feel there's nothing you can do. I encourage you to develop a stakeholder engagement plan.

Identify and assess your stakeholders. Work with others to develop a plan to engage and influence the key stakeholders. And as Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up."

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