How to Be a Powerful Risk Management Evangelist

Mark Langley, President and CEO of the Project Management Institute (PMI), penned a great article entitled Using Project Management to Reduce Risk. While the article was written for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), it’s a message that all leaders should read. Indeed, “high-performing companies manage risk in conjunction with projects and programs far more often than low performers do.”

How to Be a Powerful Risk Management Evangelist

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If this is true, how can we help organizations adopt risk management?

Mr. Langley encourages us to play the role of both champion and sponsor of risk management. Why? The lack of senior management support is one of the primary barriers to effective organizational risk management. I believe it is also the primary barrier to effective project risk management.

Can project managers influence senior leaders to adopt risk management and reduce the barrier to risk management? Yes. Allow me to share seven ways:

Seven Ways to Be a Powerful 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?

2. Educate 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?

3. Acknowledge where stakeholders are already managing risks.

Everyone is a risk manager, some better than others. We manage risks every day as we:

  • Drive to work (Atlanta drivers are great risk managers)
  • Exercise
  • Eat
  • Make an investment
  • Get a loan
  • Purchase auto insurance
  • Take a new job
  • Get a dental checkup

Risk management is esoteric to many people. However, risk management does not have to be complicated to be effective. Illustrate risk management with things we do every day.

4. Start simple.

If you are in an organization that has little training in risk management, start simple. Ask the following:

  • What are your goals for the operations and projects?
  • What may help or hinder the accomplishment of the goals?
  • Which threats or opportunities matter most?
  • What’s your plan?
  • What’s working and not working?

5. Connect risk management to your goals.

Notice in the example above how we connect risk management to the goals. Risk management should be about getting results. We must first understand what needs to be accomplished and why? Without goals, risk management falls into a deep, dark hole.

6. Acknowledge small wins.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, “I’ve found that small wins, small projects, small differences often make huge differences.” As people start using risk management and get tangible results, be sure to celebrate the small wins. Acknowledge and affirm the change in attitudes, behavior, and the results.

7. Demonstrate how project risk management supports operational risk management.

Project by project, project managers help organizations manage their operational risks. Unfortunately, people may fail to connect the dots. When possible, highlight how project success leads to operational success and aids your organization in fulfilling its mission.

Final Thoughts

Rome was not built in a day; neither will you change your organization overnight. Seek to understand your culture. Work with other leaders to facilitate change at a pace that your organization will accept and embrace. Best wishes!


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