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® Guide – Sixth Edition
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
In this article, I will share three primary issues in scope management–not including all the work, gold plating, and poor alignment with objectives and goals. And, we'll look at solutions for each. First, let's examine what scope management includes.
"Project Scope Management includes the processes to ensure that the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully." PMBOK® Guide–Sixth Edition, page 129
Let's break this statement down and examine each element and the potential issues.
If you wish to be a successful project manager, you must manage scope risks. In this article, let's define scope risks, look at some examples, and explore eight ways to identify scope risks.
Risk is "an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives" (PMBOK® Guide—6th Edition, Page 720). Scope risks are uncertain events or conditions that are related to the project scope.
What do we mean when we say something is out of scope? It should not be included in the project. Things have a way of sneaking in, don't they?
Keep in mind, product scope includes the features and functions of the products, services, and results. And project scope is the work required to create the deliverables.
Entering projects with little consideration of quality can be costly in numerous ways. Let's look at the cost of having no quality management plan. Then, we will explore how to develop a practical quality management plan.
So, in what ways is poor quality costly?
First, we may not meet the customer's needs and expectations.
Second, the cost of corrective action and defect repair may be higher than expected.
Third, the cost of quality after the project may be higher and may decrease customer confidence.
Fourth, project communication may be more challenging since people expect different things.
Fifth, your team's morale may suffer. Nobody likes missing deadlines due to rework. This is often a result of poor quality requirements.
Let's first define quality. For project management, quality is "the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements" (PMBOK Guide, Page 718). Project managers and teams focus on meeting the customer's needs.
The quality management plan "is a component of the project management plan that describes how applicable policies, procedures, and guidelines will be implemented to achieve the quality objectives. It describes the activities and resources necessary for the project management team to achieve the quality objectives set for the project" (PMBOK® Guide—6th Edition, Page 286).
Management develops, publishes, and communicates quality policies. Why? To support the achievement of the organization's objectives and values.
For example, Nestle has a Quality Policy which includes: "Strive for zero defects and no waste by constantly looking for opportunities to apply our continuous improvement approach to deliver competitive advantage."
What if your organization has no formal quality policy?
Nevertheless, wise project managers define the quality requirements. The quality management plan may be a simple one-page plan for small projects and a more robust plan for larger projects. Furthermore, project managers work with their sponsor, team, and key stakeholders to determine what's needed.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. —William A. Foster
This is determined by the type of project that is being undertaken. A nuclear power plant team will be decidedly different from those helping with the development of an accounts receivable software package. For instance, here are some candidates:
The Quality Management Plan should be fitting to each project. Only include the elements that are necessary and nothing more. The plan may include but not be limited to:
It's a good idea to look at prior lessons learned. Additionally, engage your stakeholders in the process to get their input and buy-in.
Susie, a project manager, was asked to manage a software development project. She invited her sponsor, the Quality Assurance manager, the lead developer, and business analyst to a meeting. The purpose was to develop the quality management plan.
Susie asked the business analyst to share his recommended approach for developing and managing the requirements. Next, she asked the lead developer about the designs, unit testing, function testing, and integration testing.
Susie invited the QA manager to help determine the testing plans including the individuals who would perform the tests, the order of the tests, the test environments, and the tracking of defects.
Lastly, Susie described a traceability matrix to trace the requirements through each phase of the project. All of this information was captured in a simple quality management plan.
In your next project, think about your approach to quality management. What are one or two steps that you will take to further improve quality?
Just because you've been a project manager since the days of "Gilligan's Island" is no guarantee that you are an effective project manager.
As a matter of fact, you may be still trying to get off your island. Even the Skipper and the Professor can't seem to help...encouraging...huh?
So, how can we produce intended or desired results in our projects? Here are 10 tips. Forming habits requires time and effort, but let's decide first which of these would be most helpful.
The term "risk" means different things to different people. Some individuals think risks are negative events (i.e., threats); others include positive events (i.e., opportunities). Whether you are starting a project or a program, be clear about what you mean by the term risk.
Many project managers and project teams approach their projects with no idea of how they plan to identify risks, assess risks, define risk response plans, implement response plans, or monitor risks. Don't make this mistake. Define a risk management plan and reach agreement with your team as to the approach and the amount of rigor you plan to use.
How often have you elicited items such as problems, solutions, or implementation ideas from meeting participants? This sounds simple, but often, participants disagree. The meeting can turn into quicksand. Let's look at the Nominal Group Technique (NGT), a powerful technique for reaching consensus.
Imagine that you are planning to facilitate a session to identify the strengths of your organization. What technique would you use to capture their ideas? How would you prioritize the list?
The nominal group technique is a structured method for group brainstorming that allows every participant to have an equal voice. It is a particularly effective tool for larger groups. The technique saves time, engages participants, and improves the probability of agreement.